Injury to Jofra Archer means Ollie Robinson will play a more important role for England at the Ashes than many will have imagined… now approaching his peak, the fast bowler can send his career into orbit again
- Ollie Robinson’s England career was in jeopardy when offensive tweets surfaced
- He was suspended but is back in the fold and is now set for an important role
- Injury to Jofra Archer means Robinson appears inked in for the Ashes squad
Ollie Robinson is not big on variety, but in the last over before lunch he rolled the dice.
Test selection has been earned by his passable impression of a metronome, by regarding line and length as a way of life. Now, from nowhere, he dropped short to Rohit Sharma.
It was England’s only bouncer of an otherwise humdrum morning session. Moments later, as Sam Curran held on at fine leg, it turned out to be their only wicket. In just his second Test, Robinson was already thinking above his pay grade.
Ollie Robinson (right) impressed spectators against India at Trent Bridge on Thursday
The fast bowler appears inked in for the Ashes with a bigger role than many had imagined
Meanwhile, matters were afoot off the field, too — just as they had been when he made his Test debut against New Zealand two months ago. Then the discovery of offensive tweets written by Robinson in his late teens meant the joy of removing Tom Latham and Ross Taylor at Lord’s soon ceded to shame and despair.
Now, as he came to the end of a compelling six-over spell that troubled both India’s openers, news broke that Jofra Archer’s elbow would sideline him for the rest of 2021.
At Lord’s, some felt England should have washed their hands of Robinson altogether, rather than merely suspend him pending an investigation. But Archer’s bad luck could send his career in an entirely different direction — in Australia this winter, Robinson will play a more important role than he, or anyone, imagined.
Robinson (centre) is turning his career around and he is approaching his peak years as a player
With England in urgent need of a breakthrough on the second morning of this first Test, Joe Root had begun with Jimmy Anderson at the Pavilion End, followed by Robinson — not Stuart Broad — at the Radcliffe Road End.
On Wednesday evening, Robinson had looked as dangerous as any of his team-mates, hustling through four overs for a single run after coming on behind the new-ball pair.
On Thursday morning, he carried on where he left off: low-80mphs, propelled from a great height, landing on or around off stump in the no-man’s land batsmen hate — not short enough to pull, nor full enough to drive.
It is a modus operandi that brought him easily forgotten match figures of seven for 101 against the New Zealanders, not to mention 291 first-class wickets, mainly for Sussex, at just 21 apiece.
Then came the bouncer to Sharma, and an unexpected glimmer of hope for England. Shortly after lunch, Robinson thought he had a second wicket when Cheteshwar Pujara was given out lbw, only for DRS to suggest the ball was clearing the stumps.
Jofra Archer will miss England’s huge winter assignments of the T20 World Cup and Ashes
And while the afternoon headlines were grabbed by Anderson’s removal of Pujara and Virat Kohli in two deliveries, the Robinson sub-plot may prove just as significant for England’s immediate future.
Much has been made of the strategy to hit Australia with pace, though with Archer out of contention, Olly Stone nursing a stress fracture of the back, and Mark Wood prone to injury, it looks increasingly like a plan devised by Baldrick.
But Robinson’s methods can work on Australian pitches — just ask Glenn McGrath and Josh Hazlewood. And his only first-class appearance Down Under brought him seven wickets as England Lions brushed aside Australia A at Melbourne in February 2020. As Anderson put it later: ‘He’s got the skills to challenge any batsman in the world.’
At 27, Robinson is approaching his peak. And at a gloomy time for England’s Test team, the thought that there is room for improvement is a bit of sunshine.
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