Archer back, with Ashes 2023 in his sights

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With the Ashes less than seven months away, England’s speedy Jofra Archer made his long-awaited return to action.

The pacer delivered nine overs and was sharp enough to smash England fly-half Zak Crawley on the helmet, as he played in a warm-up match between England’s Test side and their development team, the Lions from England.

England currently have a battery of pace bowlers, but many have been plagued by injuries in recent years, including the really fast two, Archer and Mark Wood.

Skipper Ben Stokes will want to have at least one available for each Ashes Test, and ideally both to allow for some rotation, with all five Tests being pressed over a 46-day period.

The Lions match is being played in Dubai as part of the Test squad’s preparation for their upcoming tour of Pakistan.

Archer hasn’t played competitively in 18 months due to long-standing elbow issues and a stress fracture in his lower back, but accelerated his rehabilitation by lining up for the Lions.

Later on Wednesday, in another sign that he is on the mend, Archer was signed by MI Cape Town as the wild card pick for the inaugural edition of the SA20 T20 competition. It starts on January 10.

England have a two-Test tour of New Zealand in February, but it may be too soon for their Test return.

However, as promising as his spell was, the only wicket claimed by the 27-year-old was a run out, throwing the stumps at the non-striking end to dismiss Crawley for 96.

On a flat hitting track, England had gone 7-501 at the stumps in this non-first-class game. Ollie Pope, substitute captain in place of rested skipper Ben Stokes, hit 146 from 120 balls and beheaded the versatile Will Jacks 84 from 48 deliveries.

Teenage legpinner Rehan Ahmed returned 0 for 73 from eight overs, though that probably didn’t dampen his joy at being called up to the senior squad for the tour.

If the England Under-19 international made his Pakistan debut, he would become England’s youngest men’s cricket tester by breaking the record of Brian Close, who represented England at 18 years and 149 days against England. New Zealand in July 1949.

The first of three tests in the series will take place on December 1 in Rawalpindi. This test will be England’s first in Pakistan since 2005.

– With sound system

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