Jofra Archer set to make long-awaited England comeback against South Africa

Jofra Archer is expected to make his long-awaited England comeback in Friday’s first ODI against South Africa despite being the only absentee from final practice.

All England training sessions are now optional but there were still minor alarms when the fast bowler was not seen at Bloemfontein’s Mangaung Oval on Thursday given his chequered recent history with injuries.

He played a full part on Wednesday and England confirmed there are no fresh fitness concerns after captain Jos Buttler announced Archer would be in the XI for the series opener against the Proteas.

Archer’s last England appearance was in March 2021 as a long-term elbow problem required two operations while a stress fracture in his lower back saw an attempted return to action last year shelved.

The 27-year-old was back in competitive action this month in South Africa’s domestic T20 league and Buttler is relishing being able to call upon the paceman.

Buttler said: “It’s great to have Jofra back, fit and playing cricket again. I speak on behalf of everyone that he’s such an exciting guy to have back on the field.

“As an England captain, being able to have him back in your squad and the team is brilliant.”

Archer burst on to the scene as England’s spearhead in the 2019 World Cup triumph, taking 20 wickets and holding his nerve in the final as he bowled the Super Over that helped see off New Zealand.

Jos Buttler, left, is looking forward to being able to call upon Jofra Archer (Nick Potts/PA)
Jos Buttler, left, is looking forward to being able to call upon Jofra Archer (Nick Potts/PA)

While he has taken eight wickets in five matches for MI Cape Town at the SA20 in the past few weeks, Buttler has cautioned against expecting too much too soon from Archer.

Buttler added: “There’s no expectation from my side on Jofra. I know he’s going to come and perform brilliantly because that’s what he’s able to do.

“But he’s coming back to international cricket after a long time, the intensity is different and he’s had some significant injuries so it would be naive to think it wouldn’t take him a little bit of time to get up to 100 per cent.

“It’s just fantastic to see him fit, back playing again and we know he’s just going to get better and better as time goes on.”

Phil Salt took part in training after recovering from a recent illness ahead of the first of three matches in a standalone series that was originally supposed to be played in late 2020, with a Covid scare leading to England abruptly curtailing their South Africa tour.

Phil Salt trained with England on Thursday after recovering from illness (PA)
Phil Salt trained with England on Thursday after recovering from illness (PA)

There has been no warm-up and with most of the 14-strong squad participating in the SA20 or the equivalent competition in the United Arab Emirates in recent weeks, Buttler will not be caught cold.

Buttler said: “I absolutely feel ready. It’s great guys coming here having been playing cricket.

“We’re only all here now and getting together for one training session before the series but it’s where cricket’s at now.

“It’s where the formats and schedules are so we can use that to our advantage as opposed to seeing that as a challenge, use that as a good opportunity.

“We know exactly what we’re about as an England team, we’re all excited to pull on the England shirt again and look forward to a really tough series against South Africa.”