Jofra Archer has been ruled out of the 2022 English summer with a stress fracture of the lower back as the injury saga which threatens to jeopardise his career rolls on.
Archer, who last played for England in March 2021, had hoped to make his comeback from a long-term elbow injury for Sussex in the T20 Blast next week and had planned to play some second-team warm-up matches before their opening fixture against Glamorgan next Thursday.
But he never made it on to the pitch and the ECB confirmed on Thursday morning that had been ruled out for the rest of the season after being diagnosed with a back problem.
"No timeframe has been set for his return," a statement read. "A management plan will be determined following further specialist opinion over the coming days."
Archer, 27, has undergone three bouts of surgery in the last 14 months: one on his hand to remove a shard of glass, and two on his elbow.
He made an aborted comeback after the first elbow surgery, playing one T20 Blast game and one Royal London Cup warm-up match for Sussex, before he was diagnosed with a stress fracture, prompting the second operation in December.
He trained with England in Barbados as part of his rehabilitation during their T20I and Test tours to the Caribbean earlier this year and skipped the ongoing IPL - after he was signed for INR 8 crore (USD 1.06 million) by Mumbai Indians - with the intention of returning to competitive cricket in time for the start of the Blast.
Archer admitted earlier this month that he had feared for his career at one stage during his lay-off and his latest setback will raise unavoidable concerns as to whether his body will be able to cope with the demands of first-class cricket again.
The ECB was already concerned about the number of English fast bowlers suffering injuries, with Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, Olly Stone, Saqib Mahmood and Matthew Fisher among the seamers who were not considered for selection for the first Test squad of the summer.
"It's definitely a concern and trying to find out why this is happening is something that we need to look into," Rob Key, England's managing director of men's cricket, said on Wednesday. "We need to make sure that hopefully, it never happens again. But as you know with all fast bowlers, these unfortunately are the things that do happen - stress fractures in particular."
Archer is the third quick to be afflicted by a back stress injury this season. Mahmood was ruled out for the summer earlier this week, while Fisher was initially rested for four weeks due to concern around a "hot spot" before Yorkshire said he would face a further spell of monitoring.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98