For England, 2-0 down after two Ashes Tests, the news goes from bad to worse: they will not have Jofra Archer available until the English summer at the earliest after he underwent another operation on his nagging elbow injury.
Archer has not played for England since the tour of India earlier this year and barely turned out for Sussex in the summer.
While he was ruled out of the T20 World Cup and Ashes months ago, as recently as last week Archer still harboured hopes of a return on the three-Test tour of the Caribbean in March. That was due to be his first trip to Barbados, the country of his birth, with England.
Archer, 26, spent some of his time off in Barbados, but returned to his Hove home a fortnight ago for scans. While he was initially optimistic about the prognosis, he underwent an operation in London on Saturday.
Since exploding onto the international scene with England in 2019 through his stunning performances in the World Cup and Ashes, Archer has been dogged by injury. England might reflect that they worked him too hard in the latter part of that year.
He suffered his first elbow issues on the tour of South Africa in 2019/20 then another, unrelated but similar injury to the same joint earlier this year. Archer had an operation in May to remove a bone fragment from his elbow, but returned to play a couple of games for Sussex but broke down once more. Another operation has now been required.
A cryptic ECB statement did not offer a targeted date for his return.
“The ECB can confirm that fast bowler Jofra Archer underwent a second operation on his injured right elbow on Saturday 11 December in London,” read a statement. “The procedure addressed the long-standing stress fracture of his right elbow.
“A return to cricket will be determined in time, but Jofra will will not be available for any of England’s remaining Winter series.”
The worry for England is how much more they will see of him at Test level, which remains his favourite format and the focus of his ambition. He is one of the world’s truly elite T20 bowlers, and could be forced down the path of short-form specialism if such serious injuries persist in the coming years.