Jofra Archer is all set to return to international cricket after a near two-year hiatus, in the three-match ODI series against South Africa starting Friday (January 27th), but England skipper Jos Buttler has warned the general public to not expect ‘too much too soon’ from the express pacer as he aims to ease his way back into the sport.
A recurring elbow injury ruled Archer out of action for the majority of 2021 but just as he was preparing to return to action in 2022, after undergoing a successful surgery, he was set back by a back stress fracture that he suffered in lead-up to the home summer. The stress fracture ruled Archer out of the entirety of 2022.
The 27-year-old only returned to professional cricket earlier this month in the SA20, picking 8 wickets in 5 matches for MI Cape Town, and he’s been named in the Three Lions’ ODI squad to face South Africa with an eye on re-integrating him back into the set-up, slowly.
"It is exciting to bring someone like Jofra back into the squad. I played against him in the SA20 and he was getting it down at a fair pace,” Buttler told Sky Sports.
"It must have been incredibly tough for him to come back after such a long period of time. When we see him, his performance level is so high but coming back from long-term injuries, don't expect too much from him too soon.”
2023 is a big year for England as they aim to reclaim the Ashes and defend their 50-over World Cup title, and Buttler hoped for Archer to be fully fit for both the blockbuster events.
"It is fantastic to see him back on the pitch, doing what he loves doing, and in such a huge year for English cricket, with an Ashes series in the summer and then a [50-over] World Cup later in the year, fingers crossed Jofra will be available for all those things."
Archer, meanwhile, speaking to reporters in Bloemfontein on Wednesday, revealed that he currently is about 80% fit but is feeling extremely upbeat about returning back to on-field action.
"There's no reason to look back. I've done my time and I'm here now. That's the most important thing. I'd probably say I'm about 80 percent. Just some fine-tuning now,” Archer said.
"I know whenever I'm fully fit, I don't think there's much that can stop me, it's just a matter of when that was going to be. Playing cricket again for the first time a few weeks ago, [I'm] still riding off that wave of emotions right now.
"Hopefully in two days it can go up another level. It's just been good to play cricket and actually not have to worry about if my body's going to give way. I think that was the most important tick for me so far."
It remains to be seen if Archer will get a game in the forthcoming ODI series, but England head coach Matthew Mott asserted that, being a ‘high priority’ individual, Archer will be managed ‘as well as possible’.
"We will work through it with him, see how his body is coping," Mott said.
"I definitely think he is a high priority and he will be managed as well as possible. Part of getting him into the Test summer is making sure he's bowling enough.
"What he is very big on is not wasting too many balls in practice. He really loves his match balls and that's a great attest of his resilience. We will keep talking to him about his bowling loads and how he's going."