There was a welcome sight for England’s players and fans at their training session at the Kia Oval: Jofra Archer bowling at something resembling full intensity.
Archer has not played since the Indian Premier League in April following a stress fracture of the right elbow, the latest in an unfortunate run of injuries that included a stress fracture of the back.
The 28-year-old has been quietly building back up with his county Sussex, and joined his England team-mates at the Oval for the first time in their white-ball series against New Zealand. Archer bowled a spell at decent pace, before playing around bowling some left-arm spin.
He was not named in their provisional World Cup squad, and his best hope for involvement in that tournament is to be taken to India as one of England’s three travelling reserves. However, that would still require another member of the squad to get injured during the tournament for him to be drafted in. England may decide it is not worth the risk and instead choose to take him to the Caribbean, where they play eight white-ball internationals in December.
“There has got to be a duty of care with Jof,” said Luke Wright, the national selector, when naming the provisional squad. “We know how desperate we all are to have him – there’s no doubt about that – but we’ve also got to get it right for him. He’s been very unfortunate with these injuries.
“He’s not going to come round quite quick enough, especially for the first part of the World Cup. There is a duty of care with him. We have to make sure that long-term, we get it right because we see him as a huge asset for a long time. As much as the temptation is to try and rush him in and get him in for the start of this World Cup, unfortunately, we’re just going to run out of time.”
Coincidentally, Archer’s appearance at training came four years to the day since his last international match on home soil, the fifth Test of the 2019 Ashes, a series which he lit up. He last played for England on their white-ball tours of Bangladesh in March, when he was back to his best, bowling with pace and skill.
Also at training was Andrew Flintoff, the legendary England all-rounder who has helped out the coaching staff during this series as he recovers from an awful crash while filming Top Gear last year.