England v Australia, second Test, day four
A friend of a friend doesn’t believe in tiredness. Just flat-out doesn’t believe in it. He reckons that as long as you eat enough, you should have energy. This one time he had to call a halt to an extremely long bike ride because his heart had gone funny.
Jofra Archer appears to be of a similar mind. Before the second Test, Justin Langer had wondered how fast the fast bowler would be once he was into his third or fourth spell. Now we have the answer: even faster.
After 22 overs at 90mph, Archer decided that he was going to start ambling in and bowling at Shoaib Akhtar pace from his 23rd over onwards.
As a batting genius, Steve Smith dealt with this about as well as anyone could have done – which is to say he got hit in the arm (which is probably broken)…
… and then he got hit on the neck, which briefly caused everyone with half a memory genuine and grave concern that he might actually die.
(That’s not rhetoric. We wholly mean that.)
As a passage of play, it probably tipped over the threshold that separates ‘hugely exciting’ from ‘slightly frightening and a little bit sickening’.
Turns out Smith was okay. Or at least okay enough to return to the crease and bat like a man who’s suffering acute pain in two body parts – pain that originated while he was previously doing exactly what he’s now trying to do again.
He probably shouldn’t have come back out really.
It makes absolute perfect sense that being peppered and pummelled like a cheap steak would put someone off their game a bit in the short term. It’s also possible to make a case that the experience could affect a man in the longer-term.
Batting bravery is largely a form of delusion, but to be unaffected by what happened to Smith would be on another level.
Given his current rate of acceleration, it also doesn’t pay to think too hard about how quickly Archer will be bowling once he’s got three Tests’ worth of fatigue in him.
Whose delusion will be the stronger?