Pace duo Wood & Archer bring excitement for England

If England needed a morale-boosting moment in their last match before their T20 World Cup campaign begins, it took just two balls.

Mark Wood, in his first match since March because of injury and the weather, hurled a 95mph delivery that had Muhammad Rizwan groping at fresh air.

He hit 96mph soon after in a rapid opening burst in combination with Jofra Archer - two of the main components of England's 2019 World Cup win.

Rizwan and Pakistan captain Babar Azam countered it, at least until Babar edged Archer on 36, but it captivated the crowd at The Oval and set pulses racing about the prospect of the pair reuniting during England's World Cup defence.

“It's really exciting," said captain Jos Buttler, whose side's campaign begins on Tuesday against Scotland in Barbados.

"Any time you see pace in the game, especially those two bowling together, it's a great place to be.

"The two of them bowled really well on a quick wicket."

'No reason we can't do it again' - Wood

Wood had not played since the final day of England's Test tour in India on 9 March. His last T20 was in April 2023.

But, albeit against a disappointingly poor Pakistan, he returned impressive figures of 2-35, averaged 91mph and twice hit 96mph.

He produced a brutal bouncer to have Azam Khan caught behind and another fierce short ball was later fended to Jos Buttler by Naseem Shah.

"It was a bit frantic, it was my first game back in a while and it wasn't till after the first couple of overs I felt I was back into it," Wood said afterwards.

"I was pleased with the wicket. That settles you into the game."

Wood and Archer were England's leading wicket-takers in their 2019 World Cup win but have only played together sporadically since because of injury.

The fourth T20 against Pakistan was their first appearance together at home since a one-day international against Australia in the Covid-19 bubble in 2020.

"There is a question of whether or not me and Jofra could play together," said Wood when asked about the prospect of the pair reuniting on the slower pitches of the Caribbean.

"We've had success before and I don't see why we can't do it again."

'Archer looks like he has never been away'

Archer produced another impressive performance as he continued his comeback from a series of injury issues, most recently a stress fracture in his elbow which kept him out for more than a year.

He took two wickets on his return on Saturday and finished with figures of 1-31 in 3.5 overs on Thursday, having regularly troubled Pakistan's batters with sharp bouncers.

England's leading wicket-taker of all time James Anderson said Archer "doesn't look like he's been away".

"Having Jofra and Mark Wood in the same team is so exciting," Anderson said.

"He bowled brilliantly at Edgbaston, he was brilliant again today and it's just so exciting as an England fan.

“There is very little change in his action regardless of what length he's trying to bowl and that's what makes him so effective, especially with his bouncer.

“There is normally a tell with a bouncer that a batter can pick, but Jofra is exactly the same action. It’s the same with his change of pace, same arm speed which makes him so difficult.”