Jofra Archer reveals Test match ambitions after England Lions cameo

Jofra Archer insists he has no desire to leave Test cricket behind, with England planning a phased return to competitive action that builds towards next summer’s Ashes.

After an 18-month injury nightmare, the fast bowler is two days into his comeback match in Abu Dhabi, bowling nine overs for England Lions against the senior team on Wednesday and following up with a batting cameo on Thursday.

Archer hit two fours and a six as he contributed an unbeaten 20 to the Lions’ 412-9, with Haseeb Hameed’s 145 providing the spine of his side’s response to a first-innings 501-7.

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The 27-year-old’s reappearance in red-ball cricket has been an encouraging sight for England fans, many of whom must have feared his fitness problems, which include a longstanding elbow problem and a stress fracture of the back, could draw an early end to his Test career.

Jofra Archer of England bowls during a nets session at Kensington Oval. (Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)Jofra Archer of England bowls during a nets session at Kensington Oval. (Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
Jofra Archer of England bowls during a nets session at Kensington Oval. (Picture: Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

But he remains optimistic about his future as a three-format player.

“It’s weird feeling this way again,” he told reporters at the Tolerance Oval following his bowling exertions.

“It was really nice, yesterday was a really, really big day. A small day but still a big day. I will say I’m fully back.

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“Obviously to get back to the first team is my number one priority but also getting back there as safely as possible. I’d rather take these last few months very seriously, more serious than probably all of the rehab, because once this phase goes right then it can set me up for the next three to four years injury-free.

“I would love to play every game, but I don’t think the physio would let me. Our squad is strong enough that I can play all formats all year round.”

Archer’s schedule is set to include a brief appearance for new T20 franchise MI Cape Town in the new year, white-ball tours of South Africa and Bangladesh, with next summer’s Ashes series a longer-range target.

For now, the Test side will have to do without him. Their bowlers got overs under their belt against the Lions but with over 900 runs scored across the first two days it has been hard labour for both attacks.

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James Anderson, preparing for his first Test appearance in Pakistan after 19 years of international cricket, was the man to end the 172-ball stay of former Lancashire team-mate Hameed when he trapped him lbw.

Meanwhile, Australia great Glenn McGrath believes the sight of a near-deserted Melbourne Cricket Ground during England’s recent ODI series raises alarm bells for the future of the format.

Little more than 4,000 fans trickled into the vast MCG for the last of three 50-over matches between the old rivals, leaving huge swathes of the venue completely empty.

Just nine days earlier over 80,000 attended England’s T20 World Cup win over Pakistan at the same stadium, leaving players, fans and pundits united in their criticism of the scheduling.

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But McGrath, a three-time World Cup winner in ODI cricket, believes the problem runs deeper than one poorly planned series and feels serious thought has to be applied to avoid the format being squeezed out of the calendar permanently.

“It was so disappointing to see crowds like that, ODIs are really under the pump at the moment,” he said.

“Melbourne is classed as the sporting capital of Australia, if not the world, they absolutely love their sport. So for them to turn out in the numbers they did speaks volumes about where we’re at.

“The powers that be really have to watch that they don’t put games on just for the sake of it, games that don’t count for anything. The international schedule is tough enough. I think they have to respect every series and every game, it has to mean something.

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“We’ve got to protect the game. T20 cricket is always growing, it’s fast, quick and exciting and Test cricket really is the ultimate. I think those two formats will stand the test of time.

“I do hope ODI cricket carries on, but the format is under the pump.”