All smiles as Archer makes encouraging England comeback

Daily News
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All smiles as Archer makes encouraging England comeback

After the wicket, came the smile.

Over a year since Jofra Archer last wore an England shirt, and getting on for four since he last played at home for his country, the fast bowler could once again enjoy the feeling of an international scalp.

As Pakistan’s Azam Khan chipped one of Archer’s many 90mph-plus deliveries to Moeen Ali at cover at the start of his second over at Edgbaston, the delight was etched all over the paceman’s face.

His team-mates were similarly pleased. England supporters would also have been gleeful.

England's Jofra Archer (Getty Images)

Image: Archer took 2-28 in the second T20 against Pakistan in Birmingham

After a horror run with back and elbow problems, one of the best bowlers in the world is back. With Archer in tow, the chances of Jos Buttler’s side successfully retaining the T20 World Cup next month have been given a significant boost.

They have added X-factor, a bowler for all phases of a match.

We should not get ahead of ourselves, of course, with Archer telling Sky Sports before Saturday’s second T20 that an injury-haunted period in his career has forced him to take things “game by game”.

Buttler echoed similar sentiments as the post-match presentation: “Jofra was brilliant but we need to temper those expectations because he’s not going to be the same straight away.”

But as games go, this was a fine example of the quality he brings.

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Archer explained the draining nature of rehab as he spoke to Sky Sports’ Eoin Morgan ahead of the first T20 against Pakistan

First up it was with the bat: Archer cutting a four and cracking a six in the final over of England’s innings. Then, though, it was over to his stronger suit: bowling.

A skill that secured his side the 2019 50-over World Cup title and then had Australia hopping around during that year’s Ashes. A skill that Sam Curran said earlier this week gives the team a “fear factor”. A skill England so sorely missed during their dismal 50-over World Cup defence in India last autumn.

Archer impresses after gruelling rehab

Archer’s first over against Pakistan may have been flogged for 15 but his first ball was a cracker.

The pace was there, the movement was there, and it led to a courteous block from Babar Azam, before the boundary-cracking carnage that followed across three of the next four deliveries.

Archer only conceded 13 runs across his next three overs, however, as he mixed pacy bouncers and yorkers with cutters and slower balls, snaffling Azam Khan with a quick one at the start of the 11th over and then Imad with an attempted yorker that turned into a low full toss midway through the 18th.

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Archer had Pakistan’s Azam Khan caught at cover as he took his first England wicket for 14 months

The game was still somewhat in the balance when he came on to bowl the 15th over, with Pakistan requiring 65 from 35 balls, but he made their task even tougher by shipping just five singles. He then largely extinguished the tourists’ hopes during a seven-run, one-wicket 18th. Cue another smile.

“I think the hardest part of the rehab was the repetitive routine,” Archer told former England captain and now Sky Sports pundit Eoin Morgan before his encouraging return to action at Edgbaston.

“It was the same thing, day in, day out. Every few days was gym and running. The constant robotic nature of things, feeling like a hamster on a wheel. But I’m back now so I’ve got to say it’s been worth it. Being back around the guys has been so refreshing.”

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Highlights as Archer took two wickets and Jos Buttler smashed 84 in England’s 23-run win over Pakistan in the second T20

And Archer’s team-mates certainly love having him alongside them once again.

“It’s amazing to have Jof back, not just as a player but as a person as well,” England vice-captain Moeen told Sky Sports.

“He is brilliant, he is calm and he knows what he wants to do. The quality of his bowling is on another level and hopefully we can keep him for the rest of his career.”

You’d struggle to find someone not smiling at Archer’s successful England return after all he has been through – but if he stays fit and carries on bowling like he did on Saturday, then the smiles may soon be wiped off the faces of opposition batters.

A look of dread may be seen instead.

What’s next?

Tuesday 28th May 6:00pm

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England and Pakistan meet in two further T20 internationals before the T20 World Cup – in Cardiff on Tuesday and at The Kia Oval on Thursday, with both matches starting at 6.30pm.

England’s T20 World Cup opener is against Scotland in Barbados on Tuesday June 4 (3.30pm start), while Pakistan get under way against co-hosts USA in Dallas on Thursday July 6 (4.30pm).

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