England's Ashes preparations have been dealt a significant blow, with fast bowler Jofra Archer returning home from the Indian Premier League for treatment on his troublesome shoulder. The England cricket star went under the knife last month for a procedure on his right elbow, with reports in the UK indicating he visited a specialist in Belgium to deal with the injury.
The menacing quick featured in the Mumbai Indians' IPL season-opener on April 2 but missing their next four matches before making a brief return. England Cricket staff have been in close consultation with Mumbai over the condition of the paceman, with concerns heightened by the revelation he was experiencing discomfort in a joint that required a couple of operations and contributed to him spending much of the last two years on the sidelines.
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"Archer has been recovering from right elbow surgery," the ECB said in a statement, following the news he was being flown back to England. "However, pushing through the discomfort whilst recently playing, hoping it will settle, has proven challenging.
"Therefore, it has been agreed for him to return to the UK for a period of rest and rehabilitation to give him the best opportunity for a full recovery." The 28-year-old's exit from the IPL comes a little over five weeks out from the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston on June 16.
At his best, Archer has the ability to rough-up Australia and looms as an X-factor in this year's Ashes. He took 22 wickets at an average of 20.27 during the 2019 series, but it was his battle with Smith at Lord's that had the longest-lasting impact.
Jofra Archer has tormented Australia in the past
Archer was one of the few Englishmen to trouble the Australian star during his Bradman-esque series, and struck him on the helmet in the second Test. Smith was ultimately ruled out of the following match through concussion, with Marnus Labuschagne taking his opportunity to replace the Aussie star with aplomb, after becoming the sport's first concussion substitute in a Test match.
A succession of injuries have restricted Archer's appearances since that memorable series and the 29-year-old has barely featured for the national side since 2019. That year was an undisputed high point for Archer, who also helped England capture the one-day World Cup on home soil.
Injuries have restricted him to six Tests since that point with his most recent being against India in Ahmedabad in February 2021. Archer has not played a long-form red-ball match since June 2021.
He spent 17 months on the sidelines shortly after that and only returned from elbow and back injuries this year. England have a Test against Ireland - starting on June 1 - before the Ashes begin. The fast bowler is also expected to be a key part of England's one-day World Cup in India later this year.
Australia's preparations for the Ashes include the World Test Championship final against India at The Oval in London on June 7. Following that match, the Aussies will go through an Ashes summer in England without playing any county opposition for the first time. The Test side will instead go on a golf trip to Merseyside before bunkering down for a training camp in Kent, where they will have access to a centre-wicket and practice nets.
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