England being patient with Jofra Archer in Ashes and World Cup year
England remain protective of Jofra Archer on his comeback from injury as white-ball head coach Matthew Mott revealed they decided against stress testing the terrorising quick in Bangladesh.
It is an understandable, even sensible, stance given Archer’s well-documented elbow and back problems that kept him out of the international fray for 22 months until his return in South Africa in January.
He has made encouraging progress with 12 wickets in four ODIs but Mott admitted England erred on the side of caution when ruling out fielding Archer twice in three days against Bangladesh last week.
Asked whether the prospect was considered, Mott said: “Not really, no. The medical advice was definitely not back-to-back games.”
With Wednesday marking 100 days until the start of the Ashes, Archer playing in both the first and second ODIs against Bangladesh may have been an indicator of his readiness for red-ball cricket.
His workload from now until the start of England’s summer programme will be a diet of T20s – first in a three-match series against Bangladesh before jetting to the Indian Premier League – but Mott is confident the 27-year-old will peak at the right time for the Ashes and World Cup campaigns this year.
“He’s a box office player,” Mott said. “He’s fitted back into the group beautifully and it’s an incredible effort for a fast bowler to be out for that long and come back and play as he has done.
“He would admit that he’s not fully firing on all cylinders. You can just see he’s ticking all the boxes to get back to his best.
“He just seems to be really slowly, strategically just making sure he’s doing it right and ticking over and come the Ashes, come the World Cup, I’m sure you’ll see him back to his best.”
Archer has been part of an impressive bowling unit in Bangladesh which claimed 10 wickets in all three ODIs as England sealed a hard-fought 2-1 win in their last 50-over assignment until September.
They are scheduled to then defend their World Cup title in India the following month, leaving little chance for a bolter or anyone on the fringes to push their claims to be in the 15-strong squad.
“Form in any format will be taken into account,” Mott said. “The influence on matches is something you’re going to need to get in this 15, and more importantly in that 11 – we want 11 match-winners.
Defeat in Chattogram 😔
We fall short in our chase 🏏
But secure the series 2-1 💪
Match highlights 👇
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) March 6, 2023
“It really is a crystal ball. There’s so much time between (now and the World Cup). There’s certain amount of slots that you can probably lock in now and then the rest are real timing issues.”
Whether or not Ben Stokes will reverse his ODI retirement for the tournament still bubbles under the surface and clouding the issue is the Test captain’s knee injury which discomforted him in New Zealand.
“I’m still in touch with him but the issue about when he wants to play, we don’t need to know for a while,” Mott said. “The worst thing we could do is try to put pressure on him early to make a decision.
“We’ll just see how his body’s holding up and how he’s feeling physically and mentally.”
Another all-rounder who will be in contention for the World Cup is the big-hitting Liam Livingstone, whose mix-and-match spin will be a handy addition on India’s slower surfaces.
The Cumbrian, though, nursed an ankle injury through the T20 World Cup last autumn but has been sidelined since December following a knee problem he suffered in a Test match against Pakistan – although he hopes to return to action for the IPL which starts later this month.
“I don’t see too many other players like him to be honest,” Mott added. “He’s a spin bowler, but he can bowl 10 overs in an ODI. If you have left and right-handers, he is not exposed at all. He’s a gun.
“The way he can bat in white-ball cricket, knowing we can throw him in at any opportunity, and he is not just a slogger, he’s a proper batter. He’s a very unique player.”