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Jofra Archer will miss the New Zealand Test series and England are facing a difficult choice of an operation on the right elbow of their star fast bowler that could end his summer.
Archer managed just five overs in the second innings of his first championship match of the summer for Sussex before pulling out with pain in his right elbow, an injury that has dogged him for 18 months.
The match at Hove was only Archer’s second game since the end of the India tour and missing the IPL. Last week he bowled 29.2 overs in a second XI game against Surrey but did not bowl in the second innings. He wanted to play against Kent this week, and bowled sharply in the first innings to dismiss England colleague Zak Crawley and declared himself fit for the Test series. But his injury flared up overnight and he experienced pain bowling in the second innings leaving his summer in doubt.
“England and Sussex seamer Jofra Archer has been ruled out of the LV= Insurance Test Series against New Zealand starting next month,” said an ECB statement. “Archer, who returned to action for Sussex in the LV= Insurance County Championship against Kent this week at Hove, only bowled five overs in Kent’s second innings. He was suffering from pain in his right elbow when bowling and was unable to bowl in the final two days of the match. The England and Sussex medical teams will now seek guidance, and Archer will see a medical consultant later this week to determine the next course of action on the management of his elbow.”
The exact nature of Archer’s injury has never been publicly revealed, but England worry about the long-term ramifications of an operation on a fast bowler’s bowling elbow. However, having now had several injections and periods of rest the problem has not gone away. As soon as he steps up his recovery, the soreness returns and he needs another break.
He played the first Test in India, but needed an injection to be fit for the third Test. He struggled for pace and rhythm in that match, and missed the final game of the series a week later but managed to play all five T20s against the hosts.
It then emerged Archer needed surgery on his right hand to remove glass under his skin after cutting his hand cleaning a fish tank at home in Hove before the India tour. He missed the IPL, mainly to rest and build up strength in his elbow. But having made his comeback in the second team for Sussex he is now looking at another long period on the sidelines.
An operation to clean out the joint would likely rule him out of the majority of the summer but hopefully solve the problem in time for the Ashes series this winter. Archer has found it hard to sustain his pace in Test cricket since the elbow first flared up in South Africa at the end of 2019.
England may well have rested him for the New Zealand Tests anyway, wary of risking his elbow in a low-key series with India and Australia to face from August onwards.
The squad for the New Zealand series will be announced on Tuesday, the first to be selected by head coach Chris Silverwood since the removal of Ed Smith as national selector. Archer’s Sussex team-mate, Ollie Robinson, is in line for a debut. Craig Overton was pulled out of Somerset’s championship match against Surrey with an eye on his workload before a call up for the series. James Anderson, Stuart Broad and fast bowlers Mark Wood and Olly Stone will make up the pace battery in a squad of 15 or 16 players.
James Bracey is likely to be the only uncapped batsman in the squad. Ben Stokes’ injury has opened an opportunity in the top five and the decision to not consider the IPL contingent enables Ben Foakes to keep his place as keeper. Jos Buttler only left isolation in the early hours of Saturday morning after returning from India.
Rory Burns has had a solid, if not spectacular, summer so far with Surrey but was given a central contract by England and looks to have done enough to stay in the squad after he was dropped for the last two Tests in India. Adam Lyth and Haseeb Hameed emerged as contenders after runs in the early championship rounds but England have invested time in their top six and are reluctant to make changes now. Dom Sibley is a concern; a broken finger has prevented him playing since the second round of matches in mid-April but he would have played this week had Warwickshire had a game.
Ollie Pope has been the most prolific England batsman, averaging 64.57 with two centuries including a double hundred while Joe Root made 99 against Glamorgan this week. Burns has not made a big score for Surrey, with a high of 80, but is building form with five fifties in eight innings. Dan Lawrence made his first hundred of the summer scoring a timely 152 in Essex’s innings win over Derbyshire, and Crawley recovered from a working over from Archer to make 85 on Saturday.