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Archer fills the pace void

(CRICBUZZ)Seldom has there been as much hype surrounding a player who hasn't played an international game before. But those who saw him in the BBL, and in the viral clips from County Cricket on the internet felt they were seeing something special. There was a reason why Rajasthan Royals were willing to pay as much as INR 7.2 Crore to get Jofra Archer on their roster. A side strain kept him out of the first few games but with each missed game, the calls only grew louder. 'Where is Archer? Why doesn't he play?' was the common theme of discussion among the Royals faithful and those curious to know why this 23-year-old Sussex bowler was getting so much attention.

Pace of the quickest kind had been missing in IPL 2018 following injuries to Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Kagiso Rabada. Billy Stanlake held that fort up while Jasprit Bumrah toiled hard to battle his pre-IPL workload. Few others in world cricket consistently average over 145kph and those who do it, kindle visceral pleasure unlike anything else in cricket.

"I just need to be fast enough for the batsman to not have time to react. That's all I really want. You can't see the speed gun generally on the ground. I think I've gone past that now, I've had my fun bowling fast," said Archer in an interview to Independent recently.

On Sunday, it took a while for Archer to incite that kind of a reaction. It wasn't to come until his final over. But, the wait wasn't tease-free. Showing that he wasn't all about speed, Archer brought in a few of the knuckle-balls and cutters as demanded by a sluggish track. Batsmen lining up for that extra pace were left in a fumble by the bluff. A bouncer to Kieron Pollard was perhaps the first nakedly visibly sign of his pace. But Archer kept at the slower ones as long as the boundaries weren't hit.

In his final over, the 19th of the innings, Hardik Pandya slapped one such cutter straight past him for a boundary, sending the umpire ducking for cover. It only set alight Archer's need for speed. The reply was a stirring 145.6 kph full delivery on the pads that beat the batsman for pace and sent the stumps out of the ground. The one that followed was a 149.2 kph thunderbolt to Mitchell McClenaghan, again leaving the batsman with no time to bring his bat down.Archer had arrived at the IPL, and the wait had been worth it.

The measured run-up and nimble action only add to his deception but make no mistake, the pace is real as the speed gun will affirm. And perhaps too, the hype surrounding the man.

He picked up the Man of the Match award for his three-wicket haul, a debatable decision after K Gowtham's stellar hitting in a clutch situation, but it would matter little to Rajasthan Royals. Their campaign that was veering off the rails until Archer's arrival has received a big boost, and a tournament that has already hit a few highs checked another box in the excitement column.

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