Jofra Archer’s return to action brings him an exciting step closer after being recruited into England’s ODI squad for three games in South Africa next month.
Archer has not played in any format for England since March 2021 due to a series of serious elbow and back injuries. But with Ashes and the World Cup in 2023, the plan for a return to action is on the way and is poised to return to international colors in January.
Last month, England laid out a roadmap for Ashes for Archer, when it successfully completed a three-week Lions camp in the UAE with a full squad bowling fast. Before playing in this series, January will see him return to cricket with two matches for MI Cape Town at the opening of the SA20 franchise competition. He will then play for England’s white ball sides in Bangladesh before the IPL in March. It is hoped that by then he will be ready to return to Test cricket.
Archer is part of the South African franchise’s 14-man squad, which also includes Reece Topley, who has perfectly recovered from the unfortunate ankle injury that put him out of the T20 World Cup victory in Australia. Olly Stone makes up the cast, as do more established stitching options Chris Woakes, David Willey, and Sam Curran.
The UK selection for the upcoming tours is a puzzle where trips to South Africa, New Zealand (two Tests) and Bangladesh (three ODIs and three T20s) are close together. There is significant traction on resources as the Lions also play two first-class matches in Sri Lanka, especially with so many players getting well-paying franchise opportunities.
At the top of the standings, Jason Roy remains in place despite his continued poor run in his series in Australia last month (an average of just 28 since the last World Cup). Phil Salt and Dawid Malan are the other options in this department, and Alex Hales’ return is limited to T20s at this stage.
It’s possible that Hales will receive a World Cup call later this year, but he hasn’t played more than 50 crickets since 2019 so England are happy to release him to franchise gigs (the UAE has deals on ILT20 and Pakistan Super) after Christmas League) before making a call as the World Cup approaches.
An international debut with the white ball will have to await Rehan Ahmed, who made an excellent Test bow with seven wickets in Karachi. It is also expected that he will not go on the unlikely tour of New Zealand as England tries to manage its development in the coming months. Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali remain England’s leading spin options in white ball cricket.
With Liam Livingstone and Jonny Bairstow still injured, Ben Stokes is currently retired from ODIs and Joe Root is resting, there are calls for Ben Duckett and Harry Brook, the two batting stars of England’s Test tour in Pakistan.
Duckett had success with two-handed in his first three ODIs in Bangladesh six years ago, but Brook is off-limits in format. Both men will compete for Eoin Morgan’s middle-ranked position at the fall World Cup in India. As Brook and Duckett travel from South Africa to New Zealand, this will likely be England’s only opportunity to select them in over 50 cricket matches before September. The dates for New Zealand and Bangladesh are so close that they will require almost entirely different squads.
Set in the international cricket backwaters of Bloemfontein and Kimberley, the series is very unpretentious. It was originally set to be played in November 2020, but England under Morgan withdrew, arguing that the biosecurity bubble in Cape Town was not strong enough.
Now, with the broadcast revenue required for South African executives, it’s crammed into an extremely busy schedule in the middle of SA20. As a result, England will not play any warm-up matches as SA20 participants arrive in Bloemfontein just one day before the first game.
There are ICC ODI Super League points that can be taken, but they don’t matter much as England automatically qualify for next year’s World Cup and South Africa nearly resigns to make it through the final qualifying event.