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Fears are growing for Jofra Archer’s Test future after he was ruled out for the rest of the year, in a major blow to England’s Ashes hopes.
Archer will miss all five Test matches against India, the Twenty20 World Cup and the Ashes in Australia after scans last week revealed a new stress fracture in his right elbow. The fast bowler will have an extended break from cricket before returning for a medical review in early autumn.
“You have to fear for Jofra Archer’s Test career now,” former England captain Michael Vaughan wrote for Telegraph Sport. “Cricketers have an alternative now and if the elbow is that bad why would he want to risk further injury by bowling 25 overs a day in Test cricket. Players can now earn a very good living in Twenty20 and Archer is one of the world’s best white-ball bowlers.”
England quick Jimmy Anderson admitted that the loss of Archer was a major blow to the Test side.
“It's a huge disappointment for Jofra and the team,” Anderson said. “He's been a really influential part of the team for the last couple of years since he started playing for England; a huge miss with what's coming up in the rest of the year.
“I think also this injury has been bugging him for quite a while, hopefully now this can be the end of it – get it settled, get it healed, rehab it and come back stronger. He's been great for this team and we want him back, fully fit and firing.”
Archer, who took 22 wickets against Australia at an average of 20 apiece during a brilliant debut Test series in 2019, has long been identified as crucial to England’s prospects of regaining the urn this winter.
After England were thrashed in the last Ashes series down under they identified a lack of pace as one of the main reasons for their struggles. But with Olly Stone also battling to be fit for the Ashes following a stress fracture, England are now left with Mark Wood - who has long been injury-prone himself - as their lone 90mph fast bowler. The absence of Archer is also a major blow to England’s prospects in the T20 World Cup, which will be played in October.
Since the 2019 Ashes, Archer has suffered a litany of problems in his right elbow. It first flared up on the tour to South Africa at the end of 2019. Injections in the joint enabled him to play four Tests last summer but the problem resurfaced when he played in India in February.
The injury led Archer to miss the Indian Premier League earlier this year. He returned to County Championship action for Sussex against Kent but lasted just 18 overs before undergoing surgery. It was still hoped that Archer would be able to feature at some stage of the Test series against India but his recovery from injury has proved slower than hoped.
Archer is among the most in-demand T20 cricketers in the world, with his IPL contract with Rajasthan Royals worth £800,000 a year. Concerns are growing that Archer’s elbow might not be able to survive bowling long spells in Test cricket and that he might decide to specialise in short-format cricket.
The news about Archer is the latest concern for Joe Root, following Ben Stokes’s withdrawal from the series against India. This year’s series will be Root’s third Ashes campaign, following the 4-0 defeat in Australia in 2017/18 and the 2-2 draw at home in 2019. If Root fails to clinch the urn in his third Ashes campaign, his berth as captain is likely to come under renewed pressure.
Former England captain Sir Alastair Cook fears that, although he is only 26, Archer might never be the same bowler again.
“It’s huge news and very worrying for him,” Cook said on BBC Test Match Special. “We spoke all this time about England going to Australia with a battery of fast bowlers and Jofra Archer is another one joining Ollie Stone who is out.
"Tim Bresnan was never the same bowler after his elbow injury - they're so hard to get right. He lost that yard of pace and Jofra's point of difference is that he can bowl genuinely quick. It's a game-changer.
"The only thing now, though, is the advances in medical research and recovery of these injuries is better. So if there is ever a chance, they can get it right."
Robinson makes his case as Broad's heir - and Archer's replacement in Australia
By Scyld Berry at Trent Bridge
Ollie Robinson might never be so good as Stuart Broad in his prime, on one of those inspired days when the spirit moved the Nottinghamshire man to kick up his heels. But Robinson in his second Test is a better bowler than Broad is now.
It was Robinson who pegged away through the second morning to keep England in the game. He bowled from a similar height as Broad, at a similar pace to Broad, and with a predatory hunger which James Anderson retains, and which Broad had too, but not so much any more.
With his rolling gait, Robinson resembles a man on an aircraft carrier in the Indian Ocean running after a plane to give the pilot a message before he takes off. It was Robinson who struck, like a strike bowler should, just before the interval when the Test was draining away from unconfident England.
When Robinson fired in the first bouncer of day two at Rohit Sharma, at exactly head height, India’s model of orthodoxy and economy of movement hooked to Sam Curran at long leg. Had India gone to lunch at 100 without loss, it would have been the first century opening partnership in a Test in England by any touring team since 2016; and England, still smarting after making a total around 100 below par, would have been demoralised going into the afternoon – far from the surge which followed and which kept them in this opening Test.
The new stand at Trent Bridge, shaped like an elongated and opened spectacle case, should be named after Broad, for he is no mere student of fast bowling, he is the modern Regius professor of it, in addition to his 523 Test wickets; and no doubt he will contribute to the team’s cause of terminating India’s first innings.
But brutal truth be told, he has been coasting since January and that wonderful Test he had in Sri Lanka when contributing to England’s victory in ferocious heat. This is his fifth Test since then, in which he has taken six wickets at 49 runs each; and, no longer a bowling all-rounder, he has scored 24 runs in his eight innings.
Where did this England team go off the rails? They recorded six away Test wins in a row before slumping from mid-table into mediocrity. It was in the second Test in Chennai, when England had gone 1-0 up and reduced India to 86 for three. England needed Broad, who had replaced Anderson, to chip in then as one of the few senior players – perhaps to bounce out Rohit as Robinson did here, before he had scored 161.
Broad bowled four overs in his opening spell in Chennai and said later that he felt short of rhythm, which was fair enough as he had not played for a month. But he did not seize the ball for a second spell before or straight after lunch. On that day when England’s worm turned, Broad bowled 11 overs, and Olly Stone 15 overs with all the fire and brimstone he could muster.
As Jofra Archer is out injured for the rest of this year, Robinson surely has to be promoted to share the new ball with James Anderson at Lord’s next week and thereafter. He is always at the batsman, and not only verbally (we already knew he had plenty to say).
He makes batsmen play rather than hanging the ball out wide of off stump as his famous seniors have been known to do in the interests of economy, not least on the second morning here. Robinson beats both edges; he is up for a duel, as men are more likely to be in their twenties than thirties.
In the last Lions Test in Australia, Robinson and Craig Overton were England’s opening bowlers, backed by Brydon Carse, the Durham bowler blooded in England’s one-day international series against Pakistan. They did the job, winning the match for England by nine wickets. Robinson took the most wickets, seven for 147.
If England are going to win an Ashes Test this winter, or next, whenever that tour of Australia may be, Robinson will have to be involved again. Not least, England have been rather too quiet on the field in their past two series down under, when they have lost 9-0.
What is the message Robinson wants to deliver to the pilot? “All ready, skip, to fire torpedoes at Australia.”