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Jofra Archer takes three wickets on long-awaited return to cricket

Jofra Archer takes three wickets on long-awaited return to cricket

  • England bowler makes immediate impact in SA20 opener
  • Seamer had third elbow operation in summer of 2022

It took three deliveries for Jofra Archer to remind the world of his wicket-taking abilities, as England’s injury-plagued fast bowler returned to competitive cricket after an absence of 541 days in the opening game of South Africa’s new domestic Twenty20 competition, the SA20.

Archer took three wickets for 27 runs in his four overs as part of a three-pronged English bowling attack for MI Cape Town as they won by eight wickets against a Paarl Royals side that included Jos Buttler, Jason Roy and Eoin Morgan.

“It’s super hard after having that long, long gap and then coming back, and that kind of comeback was absolutely delightful to watch,” the MICT captain, Rashid Khan, said. “We saw him in practice and the way he was bowling it was like: ‘He’s ready to go.’ It was super great to watch him – he is fully ready and it’s great that he’s back.”

Archer had not played a T20 match since July 2021, but there was little evidence of any rustiness as he swung back into action with a wicket maiden, dismissing Wihan Lubbe with his third ball, caught at mid-on off a leading edge. He returned later in the innings to remove David Miller, the Royals captain, and Ferisco Adams with successive deliveries to conclude a heartening display.

Olly Stone – whose own injury issues include four stress fractures of the back – took two wickets, including that of Buttler, who scored 51 off 42 balls before missing a slow-ball full toss and losing his middle stump. Sam Curran went wicketless, though his smart throw led to Morgan being run out off the final ball of the Royals innings.

In response, a 90-run opening stand between Dewald Brevis and Ryan Rickelton sent Cape Town surging towards their target of 143, with Brevis – a wildly promising 19-year-old who scored a 57-ball 167 in a domestic T20 last October – ending unbeaten with 70 off 41.

The Guardian can reveal that Archer had a third operation on his right elbow – an issue that first flared up in January 2020 – in New Zealand last June, shortly after the diagnosis of a stress fracture of the lower back had ended his season. There had been previous elbow surgeries in May 2021 and again that December, as well as an operation in March 2021 to remove a shard of glass from his finger, the result of a fish-tank cleaning injury.

After that final operation it took three months of daily training before Archer was allowed to pick up a ball, but he has trained with gradually increasing intensity since, bowling in a warm-up match between England’s Test side and the Lions in Abu Dhabi last November, before making a first competitive outing since May 2021. He is expected to play four SA20 games before returning for England in their one-day international series in South Africa this month.

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