Archer ready for hard yards as Ashes loom

Jofra Archer is ready to do the “hard yards” for the twin challenges of the Ashes and World Cup this year, but England’s pace ace is aware of the expectation he faces ahead of his international return.

Archer was England’s spearhead in the 2019 50-over World Cup triumph and then took 22 wickets at a dizzying 20.27 in that summer’s Ashes, but his career has since been railroaded by elbow and back injuries.

Having collected eight wickets in five matches on his competitive comeback in the SA20 this month, Archer is on the verge of a first England appearance since March 2021 in an ODI series against South Africa this week.

While a red-ball outing remains some way off for Archer, who says he is now at “about 80 per cent” fitness, he is happy to do whatever it takes to feature for England against Australia this summer.

“It is an exciting prospect to think about playing with the guys again, especially with the brand of cricket they are playing, which is very exciting,” Archer said.

“I need to spend the next two, three, four months fine-tuning the body and making myself a bit more resilient. Let me sort that out first then I can look forward to holding the red ball in my hand again.

“Overs are overs and you train and bowl until you feel good. Obviously, I might have to do some extra bowling during the weeks when I’m in India (for the IPL, likely in April and May).

“But that is absolutely fine because I want to play in the Ashes, so I’m going to have to do all the hard yards to tick those boxes.”

His breakout displays in 2019 mean Archer is held in the utmost regard and the 27-year-old accepted the flip side is there will be a lot of curiosity regarding how he fares in the weeks and months ahead.

Red and white-ball captains Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler have attempted to put Archer’s mind at ease, with the fast bowler seemingly set for England’s first ODI of the year in Bloemfontein on Friday which marks the start of the countdown towards the defence of their World Cup title in India in the autumn.

“Ben said there is no expectation, so did Jos,” Archer said. “It’s nice to hear it, but people will have expectations anyway. Hopefully I can do a half decent job to help the team.

“If I don’t do well when I play, a lot of people will be watching. I will be judged again and no one will remember the good stuff I’ve done in SA20. You are only as good as your last game.

“This is our first ODI of the year so I’m very glad to be playing from the start and, when we do get to India, hopefully I’ll be there, and everything will seem worth it.”

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