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Jofra Archer in England home return after four years as T20 World Cup prep gathers pace

Jofra Archer – Jofra Archer in England home return after four years as T20 World Cup prep gathers pace
Jofra Archer is poised to return for England against Pakistan at Headingley - Getty Images/Danny Lawson

England are ready to throw Jofra Archer back into international cricket and play his first game at home for four years as they step up preparations for the Twenty20 World Cup.

Archer is fit to play Pakistan at Headingley on Wednesday in the opening match of a five game T20 series this week. He has not played for England at home since in an ODI against Australia at the end of the 2020 summer and his long-awaited return from elbow surgery and a back stress fracture is perfectly timed for the team’s run into the World Cup in the Caribbean next month.

England’s preparation for this tournament is in stark contrast to the 50 version last October where they decided against a warm up series in the sub-continent and were undercooked for the conditions, subsequently mounting the worst-ever defence of a world title.

This five-match series against strong opponents gives England a chance to settle on their best XI, the batting line up to bed in and ultimately assess the fitness of Archer for multiple matches in a short space of time.

All the IPL players have returned from India early, missing the playoffs, which has incensed the BCCI but a clear sign England realise they cannot take chances again on their preparation after disappointing so badly last year. Head coach, Matthew Mott, is highly unlikely to survive a similar failure with a last four spot generally regarded as minimum standard.

Jos Buttler is an instrumental player for his franchise, Rajasthan Royals, and would have been under pressure to stay in India because they qualified for the playoffs but led from the front by coming home, setting the example for others to follow such as Phil Salt, Reece Topley and Will Jacks, whose franchises are also playing IPL knock out matches this week.

But it is Archer who will be the centre of attention if the Leeds weather – rain is forecast all day – allows England to get on the field. His express pace and, more crucially in this format, his subtle changes, mark him out as one of the game’s outstanding T20 players. With the World Cup likely to be a batting slog fest, it is bowlers like Archer delivering four cost effective overs and wickets who will make the difference.

Archer will bring ‘fear factor’ on return

“It’s incredibly exciting. I’m sure England fans and players are extremely buzzed to have him back,” said Sam Curran. “He’s an addition no side can turn down. He’s obviously got that extra pace and fear factor we can bring to the opposition as well. He has obviously had a tough couple of years with his body and we all hope that is behind him now and he can get back into an England shirt and start firing. He is such a good performer to have in your team.”

Archer and Mark Wood will likely rotate to keep them fresh so Buttler can have at least one out-and-out pace option. Archer bowled for more than half an hour in two spells in the nets on Monday and Wood, who has not played since the England Test series in India in March, went through his paces too.

Buttler took charge of training at Headingley on Monday because Mott was delayed in Cardiff with a personal issue although he is expected to be with the team on Tuesday. Andrew Flintoff was at nets and will be with England throughout their World Cup campaign when Kieron Pollard will also join the backroom staff to help with knowledge of local conditions.

England’s 50 over World Cup campaign proved to be a tournament too far for an ageing side and while the old guard of Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid are still there, the top three of the T20 side has been refreshed with Salt partnering Buttler as opener and Jacks batting at three. Both Salt and Jacks enjoyed good IPL campaigns standing out in a tournament of big hitters.

England beat Pakistan in the World Twenty20 final in Melbourne two years ago and are more at home in this format. They possess the firepower in their batting but it is whether their bowling can withstand the onslaught on small West Indian grounds. A damp Leeds in May is not like-for-like preparation but at least England are taking things seriously and Archer’s performance in this series could have longer term, more meaningful, repercussions.

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