Veteran West Indies opener Chris Gayle will be ready and waiting for the threat that is expected to come his way from England’s Barbados-born pacer Jofra Archer when the teams meet in their fourth ICC World Cup match on Friday at Southampton, England.
The media has played up the match due to Archer’s West Indian roots and his current success as England’s opening fast bowler at the World Cup. Archer, who played for the West Indies Under-19s, only qualified for the England squad on residency in March because his father is British and even then was a late addition to the side. However, his raw pace in England’s opening matches has surprised many.
Speaking after the Windies’ clash against South Africa was abandoned due to rain yesterday, coach Floyd Reifer said they will be ready.
“Our batsmen led by Chris Gayle —will not shy away from Archer’s speed,” Reifer said.
“It will be entertaining, we are all here to entertain. I am sure Jofra will be chomping at the bit to come at us but we will be ready for him.”
The lanky Archer has cranked up the speed on his deliveries in the current tournament and bowled one at 93 mph against Bangladesh on Saturday. But Reifer said many of his players are very familiar with his ability.
“We have known Jofra for a long time, he is from Barbados. We knew him from under-15, under-17 and under-19 so he is not new to us,” he said.
“He is bowling quickly but that is nothing we are not accustomed to. We are looking forward to the challenge. I actually played club cricket against him as a young guy. Jofra is a tremendous talent, we all know that.”
The 24-year-old Archer could have easily represented West Indies but after playing a handful of matches for the Windies Under-19s and then being snubbed for the 2014 Youth World Cup, he turned his attention to representing England.
He was born and raised in Barbados but always held a British passport through his father who is a UK citizen.
Archer initially faced a wait up until 2022 to turn out for England but saw his dreams fast-tracked earlier this year when the England and Wales Cricket Board reduced the eligibility criteria from seven years to three.
He debuted last month against Ireland and was subsequently fast-tracked into the England side.
Describing Archer as a “tremendous talent,” Reifer said his development had not been surprised as he had been always blessed with pace.
“I knew him from the Under-17, Under-19 days. I actually played club cricket against him as a young guy,” Reifer explained.
“So Jofra is a tremendous talent, we all know that. As I said, we are looking forward to the game on Friday.”
He added: “He obviously had the pace. He had a few injuries as a young guy but I’m guessing though he’s fully over those injuries and he is bowling very well for England.”
Archer, in partnership with fellow speedster Mark Wood, has added a new dimension to England’s pace attack, making the hosts a feared side.
And with West Indies fortunes have fluctuated over the past two decades, there is no doubt Archer would have been an asset to the regional side.
But Reifer reiterated that the issue of Archer’s allegiance was no longer up for discussion.
“He made his choice,” the former West Indies captain smiled.