Jofra Archer claims wicket in lively display on Sussex second XI comeback


Greater challenges lie in store, ideally in the Caribbean next month, but Jofra Archer gave the impression that he’ll be ready to make his England comeback against Pakistan next week with a lively six-over display for Sussex’s second XI against Kent in Beckenham.

It was a low-key outing, overseen by a handful of spectators and media on a sunny morning in South London, but when he walked off the field on the stroke of 12pm – exactly one hour after he had been parachuted into the final day of this four-day fixture – he took with him figures of 6-1-11-1, and a heightened belief that another injury-plagued year could finally be behind him.

Archer has not played for England since the tours of South Africa and Bangladesh in early 2023, and even that short-lived comeback came after nearly two further years on the sidelines, as he struggled initially with a long-term elbow injury, and then a stress fracture of the back.

And while he admitted in a recent interview that “another stop-start year” could force him to consider his options at the age of 29, Archer showed few signs of reticence in a feisty display that featured one wicket, one further appeal for a leg-side catch, and a fierce blow to the helmet that required some running repairs for the batter, Ekansh Singh.

Amid the anticipation, Archer’s first delivery was a short and wide loosener that the Kent opener, Ben Dawkins, slapped up and over backward point for four. He didn’t receive many more in his half after that, with Archer’s very next ball significantly shorter and sharper, and causing the keeper to leap high to his left to gather.

Ekansh then wore another sharp bouncer on his visor, and was soon undone by Archer’s pace and lift in the channel outside off, as he fenced loosely off the back foot for Henry Rogers, at third slip, to dive across second and cling onto a sharp chance. Archer responded with a pump of his fist as he jogged over to celebrate with his team-mates, his broad grin confirming the personal importance of the moment on this long road to recovery.

He was less impressed half-an-hour later, however, throwing his arms out in frustration when he thought he’d landed his second. Gareth Severin, en route to a hard-earned half-century, jabbed a lifter on his hips through to the keeper, only for the umpire to shake his head – rightly noting that the ball had flicked Severin’s shirt.

Archer’s final over of the morning was a maiden, whereupon he walked straight off the field and back into the pavilion, ready to link up with England’s T20I squad in Headingley over the weekend, ahead of their first practice session on Monday afternoon.

Jos Buttler, England’s white-ball captain, told the PA news agency that Archer’s comeback was a “huge encouragement”, but guarded against expecting too much too soon, as his team sets about fine-tuning their plans ahead of their defence of the T20 World Cup title that they won in Australia in November 2022.

“Everyone knows what he is capable of and the attitude he possesses,” Buttler said. “As a captain he is someone you can always turn to in a game because he always has a trick up his sleeve.

“It’s great to be able to call on him but it’s important to manage expectations. He has been out of it for a while now so we will need to look after him and realise that it might just take him a little while to be the Jofra of 2019.

“He is a proper superstar but we do have to be smart with him. It’s a jump in intensity from what he’s doing now to international cricket and you can’t really replicate it.”

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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