It is some challenge that awaits England's cricketers at Lord's this week.

This is the 50th Ashes series since World War I, and only thrice in those hundred years have England come back from losing the opening test to win the series. On each occasion, England required the assistance of great pace bowling to turn the tide.

In 1954-55, Frank Tyson knocked over the Australians as if he were Mike. After a quiet first test, he shortened his run-up, maximised his massive shoulders and took 27 wickets in the last four tests at only 15 runs each. It was widely agreed to be the fastest bowling to that point yet seen.

In 1981, Ian Botham, after standing down as captain, stood up. Australia won the first test, five more remained, and Botham took 31 wickets at 20 each. Two spectacular centuries did not come amiss.


It was Andrew Flintoff in 2005, after England had lost the opening test at Lord's. In the last four tests, he may not have taken the new ball but he led England's assault, taking 20 wickets at 23 each against a batting line-up which had been impregnable for a decade. Batting like Beefy, too, Flintoff turned the series.

The captains who had this firepower at their disposal — Len Hutton, Michael Brearley and Michael Vaughan — were honoured by the Queen and ennobled in the game's history; the fast bowlers themselves were recognised sooner or later.

No further incentive should be necessary for England captain Joe Root and the fast bowler who is going to tip the balance of this series England's way, if anybody is: Jofra Archer.

It is an enormous expectation to place on a debutant, but while Botham and Flintoff were experienced all-rounders by the time of their finest hour, Tyson was the same age Archer is now, 24, and had played a single test before he toured Australia.

Archer, moreover, has already packed many games of cricket into his career, around the world from England to Australia, India, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, Ireland — where he made his England debut in an ODI at the start of May — quite apart from his native Barbados. England cannot have had a debutant fast bowler so well versed in the techniques of delivering a red or white ball.

As Stuart Broad had the measure of David Warner in the opening test at Edgbaston, dismissing him from round the wicket both times (three if you include Warner's leg glance to the keeper which was neither given out by the umpire nor reviewed), Archer is needed to dismiss Steve Smith above all others. Smith scored 144 and 142 at Edgbaston to be player of the match and take his aggregate in his last seven tests against England to 1116 runs at the average of 139.50.

This promises to be one of the all-time duels. Archer and Smith know all about each other. As teammates with Rajasthan Royals, they have sparred against each other in many a net. Smith will know every type of delivery Archer has in his quiver but Archer has to force Smith into only one fatal mistake per innings.

Smith, for certain, will no longer be allowed to camp on his back foot outside off stump and wait, as he did for England's bowlers of lesser pace, not only at Edgbaston but in Australia during the previous Ashes series.


Archer has used his time in Twenty20 cricket to perfect his 150km/h yorker, for a start, while his bouncer has an almost unique quality in being so straight, bowled from wicket to wicket. Smith, however, will be anything but a sitting duck.

"The beauty of Steve is that you can come up with a plan and he's good enough to adapt really quickly," said Australia captain Tim Paine after the tourists' practice match in Worcester, while England's players had no red-ball game anywhere in the land. And this was not the usual stuff dished out by a team's propaganda department because it is true.

"I've seen him do it [adapt] between balls," Paine said. "That's what makes him the best player in the world — his ability to adapt to any plan thrown at him. He processes it quicker than other players and adapts on the spot."

Quite a duel, then, is in store at Lord's this week between Australia's champion and the man England hope, in the absence of James Anderson, will be theirs.

The caveat about Archer is stamina. He will surely make a sudden impact but can he make a sustained one? He has not played a first-class game since last September; and those championship matches he has played for Sussex have all been in the second division, where the capability of batsmen to bat all day has been somewhat less than Smith's.

It will be in his third and fourth spells that Archer can turn himself into not only a World Cup medallist but England's match-winner in this series.

In any event, there is a lot to be said for the selection of Sam Curran, especially if the bad weather continues into the test. By playing instead of Jack Leach or Joe Denly, Curran can reduce the load on Ben Stokes, so he can focus more on batting, and on Archer, enabling the debutant to bowl spells which are short, sharp, and even Tysonian, or Bothamesque, or Flintoffian.