Jofra Archer welcomed his unfamiliar role in England’s consolation 59-run victory over South Africa after walking away with career-best international figures in Kimberley.
For the first time in his ODI career, Archer did not open the bowling as Chris Woakes and Reece Topley operated in tandem at the outset of South Africa’s unsuccessful pursuit of England’s 346 for seven.
But he was called upon time and again to make the breakthrough and delivered for Jos Buttler on each occasion, collecting six for 40 in 9.1 overs as England bowled South Africa out for 287 and ended their five-match losing run.
“When you’re bowling that role, it’s similar to what Plunkett used to do, I just bowl the same thing, I actually quite like it, forget about opening the bowling,” Archer said.
“It’s not a bad gig, I was telling Stoney, this is every over you bowled last game, we might have to fight for this, I’m quite liking it. Some days everything you touch turns to gold and (this) was mine.
“It’s new and I enjoyed it, it’s weird bowling your second or third over with field spread, it also boosts your confidence, if you bowl a ball you’re not 100 per cent happy with, you’ve still got cover.”
He seemed to have more of a spring in his step on Wednesday, regularly exceeding 90mph, and felt he could have “bowled another 10” overs although he recognises he has to remain patient in his comeback.
“Being back after however long, it’s kind of surreal,” he said. “You only get that feeling after you start playing. It’s definitely gone up a few notches.
“I had the best time off. I had enough of it to know I don’t miss home like I used to. I’ve done everything I needed to do in the last 18 months and I’m just ready to play cricket.
Twin hundreds from Dawid Malan (118 off 114 balls) and Jos Buttler (131 off 127 deliveries) in a 232-run stand in 211 balls led an astonishing recovery after England had slid to 14 for three.
Archer tellingly snared Heinrich Klaasen for 80 off 62 balls after the South Africa batter had got the equation down to 69 off the last 63 deliveries – with the Proteas subsiding thereafter although they won the standalone series 2-1.
Asked whether he relishes being Buttler’s go-to fast bowler, Archer responded: “I think everyone wants it. I just want to contribute, just want to help the team and glad I actually got the opportunity.
“In the first game it was the same thing, obviously that didn’t go my way but that’s usually how it is whenever I play – if (Buttler) wants a breakthrough or a cheap over, he’s never shy to come over and ask.
“I actually meant to give (Klaasen) one and I got him! I wanted to bowl at the other guy (Wayne Parnell).”
After a modest return last week, this display was the Archer England fans were used to seeing before injuries derailed his career, and the 27-year-old has learned to ignore criticism.
“You know what people give on social media one day you’re doing s**t and the next day you’re the hero,” Archer added.
“It’s real fickle, but nothing you can do about it. I knew it couldn’t get any worse than the first game, that was one thing I had going for me. I refused to let it be like the first game anyway.”