LONDON • In the end it took an act of God to stop Jofra Archer.
A thick bank of black cloud blew over the Grand Stand of Lord's at 7.15pm (local time) and in the twilight of Sunday, the umpires decided that it was all of a sudden so dark that the Australian batsmen could not safely face him any more, if they ever could safely face him at all.
Archer had already hit Marnus Labuschagne, Tim Paine and Matthew Wade earlier in the day, and that was in bright sunlight. So Archer slapped on his hat, turned his back from the crease, then strolled off to field at mid-on, despondent.
But in his 44 overs in England's second Ashes Test against Australia, he had proved himself to be among the world's most lethal fast bowlers.
On Sunday, he cracked open the Australian second innings, had David Warner caught at slip, Usman Khawaja caught behind and, later in the day, removed Paine too as Australia limped to 154 for six to force a draw and remain 1-0 up in the series.
Although England failed to win the match, Archer's hostile spell on the fourth day served notice that the 24-year-old has the ability to enjoy a stellar career.
He has hit 19 batsmen in the body and head in the short time he has been playing international cricket.
He has also proven his ability to maintain nerves of steel cometh the hour. Archer had to put grief aside to play an instrumental part in England's victory during the Cricket World Cup after his cousin was shot dead a day after the hosts' opening win over South Africa.
His teammates were impressed.
"Out on the field Jofra has clearly made a big impact," England captain Joe Root said. "It's pleasing to see someone come in on Test debut, shake up things and live up to the hype - even some of the hype he put on himself."
England all-rounder Ben Stokes described Archer's performance as "frightening".
He said: "We were laughing he was going to be top of the rankings after one Test. We are very lucky he is in our team. He gives you an extra dimension."
Many of the Australian team have played with Archer in the Indian Premier League and had known what to expect.
"It didn't surprise us," captain Paine said. "We know the package he brings with his pace. It's something every team want to have."
Archer contributed hugely to England's World Cup victory this year, having only been cleared to play in March following a rule change that allowed the Barbados native to switch allegiances since he moved to Britain after turning 18.
But bowling the super over in the final against New Zealand while finishing the tournament as the winners' leading wicket-taker has outlined his potential to make an even bigger impact in the longer format of the game.
Michael Vaughan, who led England to victory in the 2005 Ashes, told the BBC: "With Archer, I am excited for the next few years of Test match cricket. We have got a superstar."
THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS