South Africa v England: Archer returns as tourists tackle Bavuma's Proteas

By Sports Desk January 26, 2023

Jofra Archer is poised to return to international cricket with England on Friday as Jos Buttler's team tackle South Africa in the first of three ODIs.

The 27-year-old fast bowler has been building up form and fitness by playing for MI Cape Town in the SA20 series, having played no international cricket since March 2021 due to injury.

Major elbow and back problems put Archer's blossoming career on hold, but he is back now.

Although Archer is only around 80 per cent of the way through his recovery, by his own estimation, all that is lacking is "fine-tuning", he said this week.

This is music to the ears of captain Jos Buttler, who said on Thursday: "It's great to have Jofra back, fit and playing cricket again. He's such an exciting guy to have back on the field. As an England captain, to have him back in your squad and in your team is brilliant.

"He's only just coming back to competitive cricket, this will be his first international game for a long time, so there's always going to be a level of expectation on Jofra because we all know what he's capable of. But I'm sure he's just going to get better and better as he comes back and gets back to performing at such a high level."

Buttler says Archer may need "a little bit of time" to fully return to where he was before injuries began to take their toll.

But at the start of a World Cup year, with England preparing to defend their 50-over title in India in October and November, Buttler said: "It's just fantastic to see him fit and back playing again."

Ahead of the opening match in Bloemfontein, England know a 3-0 series win would see them jump back above India to the top of the ODI rankings.

Former skipper Kevin Pietersen made an appearance at the team's training session on Thursday, with England looking to get back to winning ways after failing to win any of their last three ODI series, losing to Australia and India and drawing at home against South Africa.

The Proteas continue to be led by Temba Bavuma, and this series could be a key one in terms of his future as white-ball captain.

A shock defeat to the Netherlands knocked South Africa out of the T20 World Cup in November, with Bavuma signalling he will concur with whatever decision is made about the team's future leadership.

Rob Walter is due to take over as coach of the ODI side from the start of February, with Shukri Conrad overseeing this series.

"If the team wants to go in a different direction with a different leader, I am happy to step away," Bavuma said. "Ultimately it's up to the coach. We have got a new coach now and might be a new coaching staff.

"The coach will have his vision and he will need someone to drive that vision. At the moment the coach has entrusted me with that role, so I will continue doing my best. I'm fortunate I have got a bunch of guys that support me. For me, it's business as usual for now."

Milestone in sight for Roy

England batter Jason Roy is seven away from reaching 4,000 runs in ODIs. If he reaches the milestone in his first match of this series, his 105th innings, it would make him the second-fastest player to achieve it for England, Joe Root got there quicker than anyone, in just 91 innings.

Parnell on brink of century

Wayne Parnell, set to win a 70th ODI cap, will be hoping to complete 100 scalps in the 50-over international game during this series. He is on 97 at present and can become the 13th player to reach 100 wickets in the format for the Proteas. He has taken three or more wickets in three ODIs against England, including his career-best figures of 3-48, all the way back in November 2009.

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