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Jofra Archer’s return gets England buzzing in buildup to T20 World Cup
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Jofra Archer’s return gets England buzzing in buildup to T20 World Cup

Jofra Archer was the last one out at training on Monday, strolling on to the Headingley outfield with a plate of food in his hand. But after a year of starvation on the sidelines, the fast bowler is poised to make his England comeback this week as the buildup to the T20 World Cup gets under way.

Archer was last seen in England kit in Bangladesh 14 months ago and the 29-year-old bowler has not played a home international – in any format – for nearly four years. Provided the stress fractures to his right elbow and lower back that forced the hiatus are firmly in the rearview mirror, expect Jos Buttler’s pace attack to be significantly augmented over the coming weeks.

Four T20s at home against Pakistan, starting here on Wednesday evening, represent England’s only action before their World Cup defence begins against Scotland in Barbados on 4 June. With their squad due to be finalised by Saturday – the same day as the second T20 at Edgbaston – it makes sense to run the rule over Archer immediately.

Having bowled six overs with the red Dukes ball for the Sussex second XI last Friday, during Archer’s first net back in the England set-up the white Kookaburra was sent down for about 30 minutes at a decent lick. Matthew Mott, the head coach, missed the session for family reasons but the delight among the rest of the set-up, which included Andrew Flintoff, was palpable.

“I’m sure England fans and players are extremely buzzed to have him back,” Sam Curran said. “He’s got that extra pace and fear factor we can bring to opposition as well. Jof has had a really tough couple of years, we all hope he can come back and do what he does for England and bring the ‘A game’ we know he’s got.”

Curran is one of eight England players back recently from the Indian Premier League, which has caused a bit of disquiet among the franchises as the tournament enters its playoff phase. In fairness, only four – Buttler, Phil Salt, Will Jacks and Reece Topley – were with teams who had reach this stage, but Rob Key, the England team director, decided that bonding his 15-man squad early was more important.

“It makes sense,” said Curran, whose Punjab Kings failed to progress from the league phase. “We want to be playing as [an England] team and get used to our roles. It’s quite hard to go straight into a big tournament if you haven’t played together. [Playing against Pakistan] is a hugely important series.”

Time out in the middle and clarity around roles will be valuable for England and Pakistan, with the tourists starting life under their new head coach, Gary Kirsten, after his recent appointment. That said, and with rain forecast this week, conditions will differ hugely from the Caribbean in sweltering June.

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Given England’s 50-over World Cup defence in India last year was dogged from the outset in part because of a lack of acclimatisation, there is a risk of the same mistake being repeated. Not that there was much choice, with the national teams committed to a set number of home games under the English game’s broadcast deal.

Archer aside, England’s men have one further fitness issue to monitor after Liam Livingstone returned from the IPL with a knee injury. The all-rounder, whose winter in franchise cricket has been suboptimal, took part in training on Monday but with the joint heavily strapped. Beyond that, Buttler’s start to the campaign could be affected with his wife, Louise, due to have their third child soon.

Source: theguardian.com