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After 382 days on the sidelines, Jofra Archer is set to return for England

Fast bowler has 'big smile on his face', says captain Buttler, as he seeks to play down expectations

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
21-May-2024
Jofra Archer will play an international match in England for the first time in nearly four years on Wednesday night, ending a 382-day wait since his most recent professional appearance. Jos Buttler, England's captain, said that Archer is "desperate" to return after such a long injury lay-off and confirmed he will feature against Pakistan at Headingley if the weather allows.
Back and elbow injuries have restricted Archer to seven matches for England in the last three years, all of which came on tours to South Africa and Bangladesh in early 2023. He has been gradually working his way back to competitive cricket, playing for his club Wildey in Barbados and bowling a six-over spell for Sussex's 2nd XI last week.
England have named Archer in their provisional 15-man squad for June's T20 World Cup, which they must finalise with the ICC by Saturday. He bowled with good pace in the nets on Monday - including to Buttler - and had a lighter training session on Tuesday, in anticipation of his return on Wednesday night.
"He's got a big smile on his face," Buttler said. "It's great to see him back fit and bowling fast, and just being back around the group. I know how much he's missed that. [Facing him] is never that fun, but he's looking great.
"You have to temper expectations. He's been out of international cricket for a long time, and you can never quite replicate that. We all know what a superstar he has been, but manage those expectations: don't expect too much too soon. He's got such a high level of skill that he's always going to perform well, but [he needs to] just enjoy being back playing cricket. As England captain and as a fan, people want to see him back enjoying his cricket."
Buttler confirmed that Archer will play on Wednesday night - if the rain holds off - and said England will "manage him through" the four-match series. "He's fully fit, and the medical team will advise how best to manage that," he said. "[He'll play] as many as possible: he's missed a lot of cricket and he's desperate to get back out there and be a big part of the team.
"Any player of Jofra's calibre is a huge asset to any team. Absolutely, he makes us a better side and [gives us] a better chance of winning games. But we have to temper expectations, not put too much pressure on him, ease him back in. The great success would be him coming through this series with a big smile on his face and his body holding up. That would be a success to me."
Babar Azam, Pakistan's captain, said his team are "looking forward" to the challenge of facing Archer but do not fear him. "As a team, we are very excited to play Archer," Babar said. "We have that pace of bowlers: Haris Rauf, [Mohammad] Amir, Shaheen [Afridi]. We are facing it everyday. We are not [feeling] fear; we are excited."
Harry Brook will also return to international cricket on Wednesday, after missing England's Test tour to India on compassionate leave. "He's got a brilliant head on his shoulders," Buttler said. "He can handle most things… watching him bat, he looks in great touch and he's going to be an England player in all formats for a long period of time."
Matthew Mott, England's white-ball coach, oversaw training in Leeds on Tuesday after missing Monday's session for family reasons. While performances in the next nine days will be more important than results, his side have not won a T20I series since they became world champions in Australia 18 months ago and will want to break that streak.
Mott and Buttler both came under pressure during England's catastrophic group-stage exit at the 50-over World Cup last year and cannot afford a repeat in the Caribbean. Buttler said he had learned valuable lessons in India: "Sometimes, when results don't go your way, it's easy - as an individual, or a group - to go a little bit internal. [You should] keep putting the team first every time, and make decisions based around that."
But he said England will not focus too much on their 50-over struggles over the coming weeks. "It's a different format. Times move on: there are different chapters in the book. It's a real honour to go to another World Cup as defending champions again, but it also feels like a new time. There are guys coming into the side who are more established and proper players now. It's their team as well to take forward."
Buttler comes into this series after hitting two centuries in three innings at the IPL last month, and said he is in "a really good space" with his batting. Across 22 innings for Paarl and Rajasthan Royals this year, he has averaged 40.36 while striking at 142.30: "Sometimes, I feel like a bit of a victim of my own expectations," he said.
He also confirmed he will keep wicket in this series, but is likely to hand the gloves to Phil Salt at least once since his wife Louise is expecting the couple's third child imminently. "My family comes first: I'll be at the birth," he said. "I'm not a doctor. These things can come on at any time. But I've got a plan in place… fingers crossed, everything will go well."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98