Jofra Archer makes irrefutable case for World Cup ... but who will miss out?
It was only four overs, but the evidence was compelling: there is simply no way Jofra Archer can be left out of England's World Cup squad. And realistically, the final word of the preceding sentence should be 'team".
Indeed, so compelling was the evidence that even the last resistance to Archer's inclusion - the England bowlers whose position he threatens - appear to have been won over. Liam Plunkett, who bowled pretty nicely himself, admitted Archer was "a class act" whose inclusion would make England "a better team". At this stage, any other view would be flat-earthist.
Yes, conditions were helpful. Yes, we must be careful before coming to conclusions on limited evidence. But the pace, the control and the skill exhibited by Archer in those first four overs - his average pace was 90.47 mph - rendered further debate about whether he should be included superfluous. The question now is simply who he replaces in that 15-man squad.
If has generally been Archer's pace that has gained most attention in his career to date. And it is quite an asset. The fact that he can generate speeds of 93.2 mph - his highest here - with apparent ease will give England a weapon they have long required on flat pitches and without the benefit of a Dukes ball. The prospect of him in tandem with Mark Wood is mouthwatering.
But his bowling is about far more than pace. Here he showed the skill to move the white ball sharply off the pitch, the control to start his spell with successive maidens and not conceding a run off the bat until his 19th delivery. Three times in the first over, he beat the edge of Iman-ul-Haq's bat with the batsmen pretty much blameless as he was drawn into playing at good length balls on off stump.
Archer's delivery point, close to the stumps, tends to demand a stroke, but Imam was left groping at air as the ball zipped away from him. In his second over the edge off Fakhar Zaman's bat flew to slip so sharply that Joe Root was struck on the chest before he could complete the catch.
None of England's other seamers gained anything like the same movement or generated anything like the same pace. Nicely enough though Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes and Plunkett bowled, they looked pedestrian by comparison.
Might it have been relevant that Archer was bowling with a different ball to Woakes, his new-ball partner? And from the other end? Possibly. But when Plunkett replaced Archer in the attack, he was unable to replicate the pace or movement, either. He gained a wicket with a cutter on a good length that invited the drive, left the batsman just slightly and took the edge, but there was no comparison. Not since Stuart Broad's early days has an England bowler promised so much. He has to force someone out of the World Cup squad. And he probably has to force someone out of the Ashes squad, too. This was irrefutable.
Quite who will make way in the World Cup squad remains unclear. While Plunkett's career may be in gentle decline, he provided another reminder here that he remains an awkward proposition for batsmen and retains the habit of picking up wickets. Tom Curran and David Willey have fine attributes, too, while Trevor Bayliss has previously stated that he would prefer a third spinner in the squad - the position occupied by Joe Denly at present - instead of "overstocking" with seamers.
It was intriguing to see Joe Root introduced into the attack for the 15th over, though. It was the time when Moeen Ali, who missed this game with a rib injury, might have expected to be introduced and perhaps suggested that England are considering the possibility of using Root as the reserve off-spinner if necessary. He was cut for one boundary when he dropped short but otherwise conceded only singles. The rain denied Denly a chance to show what he can do and prevented England from furthering their knowledge of his value with the ball at this level.
But they have surely seen enough of Archer now. They know he can utilise the new ball; they know - as he showed in Dublin - that he can trouble batsmen in the middle overs and the evidence of his T20 career suggests he should also prove valuable at the death. And, as he has settled into this England environment, so the language has changed from his team-mates. Where once he seemed to be perceived as an outside threat, now he is acknowledged as a special talent within the group.
"With him in your squad, you're going to be a better team," Plunkett said afterwards. "He's obviously a class act. He showed that today. He's bowled really nicely with pace and smashed good areas. It looks easy for him. He ambles in, bowls 93 mph and makes it look effortless. It's something you don't see day in, day out."
While Plunkett is clearly one of those whose position is threatened by Archer, he accepts that the arrival of such a talent - and such competition for places - is good for England.
"Whoever performs best should be in the squad," he said. "And if it wasn't Jofra it would be someone else - maybe Jake Ball - knocking on the door. There will always be someone there. And if they come in and bowl well, they deserve to be there.
"It's going to be disappointing for someone, but it's elite sport. We are playing cricket for England, not park cricket. We are here to do a job and we all want to win. The best squad will get picked.