Jofra Archer sets Ashes target as he continues injury recovery
Jofra Archer feels playing in only one Ashes Test this summer would constitute a success, such is his wariness about overextending himself following a long injury lay-off.
There will be a natural urge to unleash Archer against Australia, especially as he seems to have lost none of the attributes that made him such an important weapon in the 2019 series between the teams.
But the reality is Archer is just a couple of months into his comeback from well-chronicled elbow and back troubles and, even though he is making encouraging progress, England are proceeding with caution.
He has been kept on a strict diet of limited-overs matches so far and England’s medical team warned not to field him in two ODIs in three days against both South Africa in January and Bangladesh last week.
When he will make his red-ball return is up in the air as, after the final two T20s against Bangladesh, Archer’s Indian Premier League commitments are set to occupy him up to the end of May.
England’s bid to regain the urn begins a couple of weeks after that but while Archer would relish some involvement in the series, he is content to play the long game given England’s hectic fixture schedule.
“If I can play one game this summer, I’ll be happy,” he said. “If I play more than one, that’s just a bonus. Coming back and playing cricket for England again means I have already done what I wanted to do.
“I said 18 months ago I was going to be back. Now I’m back, hopefully I have a long career so it makes no sense doing too much, too soon.
“We have got so much cricket to play, genuinely playing for England you never stop – you’re going 11 months a year, pretty much. There is a lot of cricket and I want to play a lot of cricket as well.”
Archer intends to bowl with some red balls during his stint with Mumbai Indians and would have no qualms over playing his first first-class match in over two years in a Test against Australia.
But wickets will be a secondary concern to getting through a substantial amount of overs for Archer, who admitted he needs to shake off a “bit more rust” before he is firing on all cylinders.
“If you’re playing competitive cricket all the time, it doesn’t matter,” Archer said. “I’ve played in the Ashes already, so you know most of the things that comes with it.
“The pressures, the media, the situations are not going to be anything unknown. The only thing unknown at the moment now would be fitness and if you can actually get through a whole Test match.
“I don’t have much expectation except to finish the game. That is the biggest part, to get through 20 (overs) in an innings, maybe 40 or 50 in a game. Obviously I want wickets, but getting overs in is more important.”
In four ODIs and one T20 this year, Archer has combined figures of 41-2-220-13 against South Africa and Bangladesh, regularly exceeding 90mph and showcasing his armoury with cleverly-disguised slower balls.
Speaking ahead of the second T20 against the Tigers in Dhaka, however, Archer admitted he has had to adapt to the unresponsive surfaces he has been faced with in Bangladesh.
“To be honest, in Bangladesh I’m not going to be charging in trying to bowl 95mph,” he added.
“It sounds a little bit bad but wickets where you put everything in and you don’t get anything out, I think you’re just putting yourself at risk.
“All the guys here are extremely skilled and we’ve got other avenues other than just extreme pace.”
England have just 13 players to choose from for Sunday’s penultimate T20 and could draft in Reece Topley and Rehan Ahmed, the pair who missed out in a six-wicket defeat in Chattogram on Thursday.