Jofra Archer has been ruled out of next month’s three-match T20 series in South Africa and must now be considered a major doubt for the forthcoming two-Test series against Sri Lanka in March.
The 24-year-old fast bowler sustained a bone stress injury to his right elbow following England’s opening Test against South Africa at Centurion last month and was subsequently ruled out of the final three matches of a series Joe Root’s team won 3-1.
Archer was always being rested for the three-match one-day series against South Africa that starts in Cape Town next Tuesday but his absence from the T20 leg of the tour is a blow to England as they look to ramp up their preparations for the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year.
Archer was rested for England’s last T20 series in New Zealand last November and Eoin Morgan’s team will only have seven more matches in the format after this tour to settle on their best team before they begin their World Cup campaign in October.
If fit, Archer is certainly in it, especially as he forged his reputation playing Twenty20 cricket, primarily in Australia’s Big Bash and the Indian Premier League, before qualifying for England last year.
However, the ongoing issue with his elbow is a worry. An England statement said: “Jofra Archer returned to UK on Tuesday evening and will focus his time on getting fit after sustaining soreness to his right elbow, which forced him out of the last three Tests against the Proteas. He will be replaced in the T20 squad by Lancashire seamer Saqib Mahmood, who will remain in South Africa after the three-match ODI series.”
England are hopeful the Sussex bowler will resolve his fitness issues in time to be available for the two Tests in Sri Lanka in March.
Yet Archer this week cast doubt on that happening, while also revealing his right elbow has been an ongoing issue since last summer’s World Cup, a campaign which saw him play every game for England as they won the tournament for the first time.
“It’s getting better slowly, but it might be another two weeks,” he told the Daily Mail. “I had it in the World Cup last summer and then started to feel it on day four of the first Test [in South Africa].
“Now we go to Sri Lanka, and it might be a repeat of the slow pitches in New Zealand [England encountered before Christmas].
“If the elbow isn’t good enough I can’t see them sending me. We’ve got a long summer of cricket coming up, we’ve got a T20 World Cup and the physios will have a plan for my wellbeing.”
Managing the fitness of fast bowlers has been an ongoing issue for England, with Mark Wood playing his first Tests in 11 months during the final two matches of the series against South Africa.
To that end the England & Wales Cricket Board have announced the introduction of pace development contracts for three players – Mahmood, Olly Stone and Craig Overton.
Under the contracts, the trio’s workloads will be overseen by the ECB’s national performance centre and the governing body will give their counties what they term a “significant contribution” to their wages. The ECB added: “As part of the agreement, the player commits to make himself available to participate in the England Lions individualised player programme and Lions Tour, subject to selection.”
England, meanwhile, arrived in Cape Town on Wednesday to begin the white-ball leg of their tour, which will start with a 50-over warm-up match against an SA Invitational XI in Paarl on Friday. It will be a rather more low-key occasion than the one-day side’s last match – the unforgettable World Cup final against New Zealand at Lord’s last July.
That led to speculation Morgan, England’s limited-overs captain, would retire on a high. However, the 33-year-old has committed himself to staying on until at least this year’s T20 World Cup.