Jofra Archer faces an England disciplinary process after the unapproved visit to his home in Hove that breached the team’s biosecurity rules and, according to the team director, Ashley Giles, could have caused a “disaster”.
England ground to 207 for three on day one of the must-win second Test against West Indies but their absent fast bowler was the biggest talking point, with Archer holed up in his room at Old Trafford’s on-site hotel for five days of isolation and due to undergo two additional Covid-19 tests as a result of the transgression.
Under the stringent measures put in place for the series – the so-called bubble that was required for government clearance – England’s players travelled in separate cars from Southampton to Manchester on Monday. It followed their latest Covid-19 tests and strict orders about approved stop-off points en route.
But it transpired that Archer, who joined up with the group as planned that evening and was named in England’s 13-man match squad, had instead used this travel day to make a 60-mile detour to Hove. In a troubling development, he also met up with a friend during “one or two hours” spent at his flat.
The trip came to the management’s attention on Wednesday evening after Archer let slip his movements to a member of staff. They then moved swiftly to arrange a Covid-19 test for the unnamed friend – the result of which was negative – and announced Archer’s demotion at 8am on Thursday.
The matter is now being considered by Giles, who finds himself needing to strike a balance between deterrent and a duty of care given the extreme circumstances the players are operating under.
Giles said: “This could have been a disaster. A small act with a ripple effect through the whole summer could have cost [English cricket] tens of millions of pounds. A lot of work and money has gone into setting up biosecure environments. There is a lot at stake: this match, this series, this summer, and financially things bigger beyond that. Hopefully Jofra can learn from it and he will, I’m sure.
“Show me someone who says they’ve never made a mistake and I’ll show you a liar. This is the first issue with this very good addition to our team – a fine young man who works hard. This occasion he got it wrong. We have to support him but there have to be consequences and there will be a process we go through.”
Archer, in a public apology that made up part of the official England statement, said: “I am extremely sorry for what I have done. I have put not only myself but the whole team and management in danger. I fully accept the consequences of my actions, and I want to sincerely apologise to everyone in the biosecure bubble. It deeply pains me to be missing the Test match. I feel like I have let both teams down, and again I am sorry.”
The 25-year-old has lost a Test cap and a £15,000 match fee. But, as Giles was keen to stress, the detour could have had graver consequences for the international summer as a whole had the integrity of the bubble been compromised.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has gone to great lengths to get cricket played this summer and avert a potential £380m loss in the event of a wiped out season, flying West Indies, Pakistan and Ireland over on charter flights for the first major international sport since the start of the pandemic.
ECB officials made contact with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on Thursday to explain the situation and held talks with the boards of the countries touring this summer. Australia are yet to confirm a proposed six-match white-ball tour in September, despite naming a tentative squad.
The Archer incident is the first hiccup in cricket’s biosecure project. Phil Simmons, the West Indies head coach, left his team’s training camp in Manchester at the start of the tour to attend a funeral but had clearance from the ECB medical team and, like Archer, could not return until five days of isolation and two clear test results.
While England have laid on three buses to move the visiting West Indies players and coaching staff between venues, the preferred mode of transport for their own players has been the use of cars in order to reduce the amount of time they spend in groups during a jam-packed summer schedule.
All players and officials in the biosecure environments have their movements monitored via a microchip on their accreditation lanyards as part of a track and trace system but it does not work between venues, meaning a degree of trust is required.
There are currently no plans to change travel arrangements for the Test series against Pakistan that begins at Old Trafford on 5 August, with the management believing Archer’s high‑profile mistake will surely prevent a repeat.