Jofra Archer has set his sights on returning as a force in Test cricket amid an upbeat prognosis from England’s bowling coach, Jon Lewis, that his current elbow injury does not present a long-term threat to his career.
After reporting soreness in the elbow during his first-team comeback for Sussex last week, Archer missed out on selection for next month’s two-Test series against New Zealand. He was due to see a consultant on Wednesday and could go face surgery as soon as this Friday in an attempt to remedy an apparent impingement.
If so it would probably mean an expected eight-week lay-off followed by at least five spent getting overs under his belt with his county. A return during the five-Test series against India in August would then be the target.
Lewis, Archer’s long-term mentor who is now in charge of England’s bowling stable, fancies the 26-year-old could still play a Twenty20 match tomorrow but he wants a long-term solution to fulfil his and England’s ambitions.
“From what I understand, either short-term or long term, his elbow will recover,” Lewis told the Guardian. “I would expect him to play a lot more international cricket for England – this is just a small blip on his journey.
“We want him to help us win an Ashes series in Australia and the T20 World Cup – as I know he does – so I would imagine that people will prioritise those two. My job, once a medical decision has been made, is to make sure he’s fit and ready skills-wise to win games for England.”
Archer has previously said the problem is different from the elbow stress fracture detected during the South Africa tour in 2020, and Lewis added: “That has 100% healed. It’s the same area, but whether it’s connected, no one will 100% commit. I imagine that it is, but what I would say is he will be fit to play later in the year.
“At the moment, he has a bit of an impingement in his elbow. A lot of fast bowlers get it in their ankle, so it’s comparable but a different part of the body. Put a lot of pressure and flexion through any joint, it will take a bashing. But bowlers come through ankle impingements. I don’t foresee it being a long term major issue.”
England initially hoped cortisone injections and rest would allow the pain that developed during the India tour to settle down. But while Archer is still fit to bowl short spells, the discomfort resurfaces when he is looking to go flat out in pursuit of 90mph-plus speeds in the longer format of the game.
That his elbow hyperextends past 180 degrees in delivery is a blessing and a curse; the source of his extra pace but also wear and tear. Baseball pitchers are known to develop similar problems, with Lewis saying relevant information is being sought.
He said: “There’s lots of surgeons who have done amazing work on baseball players, who are obviously high value commodities in the US. I know our [medical] guys will have had a lot of chats with people worldwide to come up with the right course of action.”
Lewis has played a huge role in Archer’s rise, taking him in as a lodger for two years when he first arrived from Barbados as a teenager, in 2015, and providing a frequent sounding board on and off the field.
Archer has amassed 13 Test caps and 29 in white-ball cricket for England since May 2019. Asked how the player is feeling currently, Lewis replied: “He’s frustrated but he’s also level and says he understands how privileged and fortunate he is to have played so much for England so quickly as well as in the Indian Premier League and for Sussex.
“He’s incredibly ambitious in terms of Test cricket. You have a player saying: ‘I could play T20 now in the fitness I am in, four overs etc. But I want to push myself to be the best I can be.’ For me that’s exciting when it’s someone of that quality.”