Jofra Archer faces missing the rest of England’s summer following a setback in his return from an operation on his right elbow.
Archer, 26, will discuss his situation with specialists over the next 48 hours after he struggled to regain fitness and further surgery is understood to be a possibility, with the issue in the joint more severe than anticipated.
The 2019 World Cup winner had an operation on May 21 in a bid to be ready for the challenges of the Twenty20 World Cup and Ashes this winter, both of which could now be in jeopardy.
Jofra Archer is at risk of missing a key period for England as his comeback from injury is rocked
Although the fast bowler refused to set a return date, the ECB hoped he would be in contention for the second or third Tests against India, starting on August 12 and 25, at Lord’s and Headingley respectively. The five-match India series concludes in six weeks.
However, his return-to-bowling programme stalled after just one competitive outing in the T20 Blast, following which he said he felt a month away from being 100 per cent fit.
It was originally anticipated that he would make his first appearances post-op in the Hundred for Southern Brave but — after bowling regularly with his county colleagues at Sussex — it was decided he would feature in the club’s final Twenty20 group match at Kent on July 18 and be restricted to three overs.
He then sent down another ECB-imposed limit of six overs in a 50-over friendly against Oxfordshire two days later.
Archer was supposed to make his return at the Hundred but his injury has kept persisting
The fast bowler (L) was in action for Sussex against Kent before having his operation in May
He was subsequently lined up to play some part in Sussex’s Royal London Cup campaign as part of a rehabilitation programme designed to build up his workload — with the upcoming Test series against India in mind.
But the discomfort in the joint of his bowling arm that plagued him on the tour of India earlier this year is understood to have returned.
The setback follows an admission by the ECB last week that the finger Ben Stokes fractured — dropping Chris Gayle in his first appearance for Rajasthan Royals in this year’s Indian Premier League — had not fully healed before he was rushed back to action for Durham and England.
As a result, the 30-year-old is now resting the injury while taking an ‘indefinite break’ from cricket to protect his mental wellbeing.
It leaves two of England’s multi-format players sidelined as they enter a significant six-month period that concludes in Perth on January 18 next year.
Another key bowler in Chris Woakes is also on the injured list with a heel problem.
Archer began the summer combining rest treatment with cortisone injections in a bid to put the persistent problems with his right elbow behind him.
But he broke down after bowling 18 overs in a County Championship draw with Kent in mid-May. He had surgery days later.
Archer joins Ben Stokes on the sidelines with the star taking a break for his mental health
Archer was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right elbow while on a tour of South Africa two winters ago and has suffered intermittently since, particularly in Test cricket, which demands ‘effort’ deliveries to be bowled regularly.
Limited-overs cricket’s variations of slower balls and other pace-off deliveries have allowed him to play through the pain.
Last winter, he was ruled out of two Tests when he felt aggravation during warm-up days.
It was hoped that surgery would have him fully fit and firing for the year’s main events — the Twenty20 World Cup, which is scheduled to start in mid October in Oman and the United Arab Emirates, and the Ashes series Down Under that follows it.
England are acutely aware of the value of a man whose short-form prowess saw him named the Indian Premier League’s most vaulable player in 2020; one whose pace offers an extra dimension to the Test team’s attack on the faster, bouncy pitches of Australia.
Archer had been playing through the pain but is now struggling to regain his fitness in 2021
In his mid-20s, Archer should be at the peak of his pace-bowling powers, although Mahela Jayawardene, his head coach at Southern Brave, envisages a time when he reduces the number of formats he plays.
‘At some point it is a discussion to be had. If I go back with Lasith Malinga, we had a similar story. He came in, was brilliant for us in all formats, but in 2010-11 we had to make a call,’ the former Sri Lanka captain told Sportsmail.
‘We said he needed to stop playing red-ball cricket because it was too much strain on his body. It was to prolong his white-ball career for us, and for himself as well. It was a very good decision — after about six years of red-ball cricket — and that actually helped us to keep him until the 2019 World Cup.
‘Those are conversations for Jof and everyone else to have. To see how best they can manage him going forward.’