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Rules bent to fast track Jofra Archer into Ashes team

England might have voted to get out of Europe, but they couldn't wait to get their hands on a little slice of Barbados.

Jofra Archer, the once-in-a-generation intimidator threatening to torment Australia into submission, is only lining in the Ashes because England administrators threw out the rule book in a desperate bid to get him in.

Less than nine months before the start of the Ashes, England slashed their eligibility rules from seven years to just three after realising they had the fearsome Barbadian fast bowler at their fingertips.

Archer of England reacts while bowling during day five at Lord's Cricket Ground. Picture: Getty
Archer of England reacts while bowling during day five at Lord's Cricket Ground. Picture: Getty

It is hardly the first time the English have cast their eyes further afield to snare a special talent, perhaps most famously selecting the distinctly South African Kevin Pietersen.

But the decision to fast-track Archer was so controversial it caused angst among fellow England players who feared he would take their place, and threatens to banish the former cricketing powerhouse that was the West Indies into insignificance once and for all.

 

Kevin Pietersen shows off his England ‘three lions’ tattoo one-day number 185 and his Test number in Roman numerals at the end of the fourth test against Australia on the 2005 Ashes Tour.
Kevin Pietersen shows off his England ‘three lions’ tattoo one-day number 185 and his Test number in Roman numerals at the end of the fourth test against Australia on the 2005 Ashes Tour.

 

Kevin Pietersen celebrates after reaching 100 runs on the fifth day of the 5th test match between England and Australia in September 2005. Picture: AP
Kevin Pietersen celebrates after reaching 100 runs on the fifth day of the 5th test match between England and Australia in September 2005. Picture: AP

And while the Aussies might have infamously broken the rules during "Sandpapergate", the "Archer rule" has exposed the fact England does not hesitate to rewrite them when it suits.

"Funny how you can bend the rules when you need to," former Australian Test great Mike Whitney said. "The last spell against Australia the other night … that was frightening. I was sitting on the edge of my seat."

Day 5: Archer celebrates with teammates after bowling out Usman Khawaja. Picture: Getty
Day 5: Archer celebrates with teammates after bowling out Usman Khawaja. Picture: Getty

Former England captain Michael Vaughan said the cricket world was witnessing something special in Archer. "Should be playing for the West Indies," was the tongue-in-cheek retort from Mark Waugh.

So tight was it to squeeze Archer in after England ignored their own rules last November, that it was thought the 23-year-old would have to cut down on his Big Bash commitments at the Hobart Hurricanes so he could meet the ECB quota of spending 210 days living in the UK.

Back in the 1980s, champion batsman Graeme Hick - now the assistant coach for Australia - was forced to spend seven years biding his time to play for England after leaving Zimbabwe.

Pietersen celebrates on the open top team bus during the Ashes victory parade in London in September 2005. Picture: AP
Pietersen celebrates on the open top team bus during the Ashes victory parade in London in September 2005. Picture: AP

Archer, who holds a British passport thanks to his English father, reportedly abandoned the Caribbean out of anger after the bumbling West Indies brushed him from an under-19s team.

However, former Windies star Tino Best has suggested there were other factors working in England's favour to clinch them the greatest tormentor of Australians since Curtly Ambrose.

"But how can West Indies compete when it comes to money bag(s), legend," Best replied to Waugh on Twitter.