LONDON: Liam Plunkett said England would be a ‘better team’ if Jofra Archer made it into their World Cup squad after his fellow fast bowler again impressed on international duty.

Archer continued his late bid for a World Cup berth with a hostile opening spell against Pakistan in the rain-hit first One-day International at The Oval on Wednesday.

He took one wicket and conceded just six runs in four overs before rain meant there was no result in the opening tie of the five-match series.

The Sussex fast bowler’s display was a rare highlight in a mere 19 overs’ cricket before a day/night fixture was finally called off at 7:11 pm (1811 GMT) local time amid concerns over player safety on a heavily wet outfield.

Pakistan were 80 for two, with Imam-ul-Haq 42 not out and Haris Sohail 14 not out.

Barbados-born Archer was not included in England’s preliminary squad for the World Cup but could force his way into their final 15 via his displays in this five-match series.

“He’s obviously a class act,” Plunkett, one of England’s established quicks, told reporters afterwards. “He showed today, he’s rocked up and bowled really nicely with pace and smashed the right good areas, picked up a wicket in the first few overs, beating the left-hander [Imam] on the outside edge.”

Plunkett, England’s other wicket-taker in a four-over spell of one for 27 on what is now his Surrey home ground, added: “It looks easy for him, he ambles in and bowls 93 mph, he makes it look effortless.”

Questions have been raised about the effect on team morale of catapulting Archer, only recently qualified on residency grounds, into England’s World Cup squad.

But Plunkett said: “With him in your squad, you’re going to be a better team. Whoever performs best should be in the squad. If it wasn’t Jofra, someone else would be knocking on the door... If they come in and bowl well, they deserve to be there.”

Archer showed glimpses of his ability while making ODI and Twenty20 International debuts against Ireland and Pakistan last week.

On Tuesday, former England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff say ‘anyone’ should be dropped to make sure Archer had a place in the World Cup squad.

Archer seized his latest chance after England captain Eoin Morgan won Wednesday’s delayed toss at The Oval.

He started with a superb maiden over to Imam, generating movement off the pitch at sharp pace.

It was not long before Archer dismissed Fakhar Zaman — the century-making star of Pakistan’s 2017 Champions Trophy final win over India at The Oval — for three after he edged to Test skipper Joe Root in the slips.

New batsman Babar Azam (16) struck three boundaries before he edged Plunkett to wicket-keeper Jos Buttler.

“I still don’t feel at my best,” said Plunkett. “I feel I can be better, but if I’m still picking wickets up I’m happy with that.”

The series continues at Southampton on Saturday, with Plunkett and his team-mates looking to prove their World Cup worth to England selection chief Ed Smith.

“You don’t want the rain, you don’t want it (to) come, but all you can do when [you] get a chance again is be your own selector and perform,” said Plunkett, citing the advice he’d received from former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie, once his coach at Yorkshire but now in charge of Archer at Sussex.

“That’s what ‘Dizzy’ [Gillespie] used to say, ‘be your own selector’. If you’re picking up wickets that’s what you’ll do.”

Meanwhile, Michael Vaughan says he will be ‘staggered’ if Archer plays no part in this season’s Ashes series even though the fast bowler has yet to make his Test debut for England.

Vaughan is convinced he should feature in the Ashes, as well as the upcoming 50-over World Cup, even though the Test series does not start until Aug 1.

“I would be absolutely staggered if he’s not taking part in the Ashes series as well as the World Cup,” Vaughan told reporters at the launch of the 2019 NatWest No Boundaries campaign, which aims to increase access to cricket.

“He’s just got a gift and when you get that kind of quality you have to get those players involved in all formats of the game,” the former England captain added “He’ll win England World Cup games, he’ll win them T20 games and I’m very, very confident that he’ll have a big say in winning Test matches this summer as well as down the years.”

Joe Root, the current England Test captain, was understandably more guarded when asked about Archer’s Test prospects.

“When you watch him play in these games, you are always looking towards the Ashes,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how he develops throughout these games and how he handles everything but so far I think he’s been fine.”

Vaughan acknowledged that Root, in his position as skipper, had to be more guarded as he thinks ahead to the five-match series against Australia.

“He’s outstanding,” said Vaughan. “He’s different, he plays cricket in the way I wished I could have played the game in terms of mentality You speak to any psychologist and they will say ‘you’ve just got to play another game’. It’s very difficult at the highest level, there’s just too much going on in people’s minds.

Scoreboard

PAKISTAN:

Imam-ul-Haq not out 42
Fakhar Zaman c Root b Archer 3
Babar Azam c Buttler b Plunkett 16
Haris Sohail not out 14

EXTRAS (LB-2, W-3) 5

TOTAL (for two wkts, 19 overs) 80

FALL OF WKTS: 1-10, 2-45.

DID NOT BAT: Sarfraz Ahmed, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi,

BOWLING: Woakes 5-0-19-0; Archer 4-2-6-1 (1w); Plunkett 4-0-27-1 (1w); Stokes 3-0-13-0 (1w); Root 2-0-10-0; Rashid 1-0-3-0.

ENGLAND: J.M. Vince, J.M. Bairstow, J.E. Root, E.J.G. Morgan, J.C. Buttler, B.A. Stokes, J.L. Denly, Adil Rashid, J.C. Archer, C.R. Woakes, L.E. Plunkett.

RESULT: Match abandoned; five-match series levelled at 0-0.

UMPIRES: Rob Bailey (ENG) and Paul Reiffel (AUS).

TV UMPIRE: C.B. Gaffaney (New Zealand).

MATCH REFEREE: R.B. Richardson (West Indies).

SECOND MATCH: Southampton, May 11.

THIRD MATCH: Bristol (D/N), May 14.

FOURTH MATCH: Trent Bridge (D/N), May 17.

FIFTH MATCH: Headingley, May 19.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2019