England’s Jofra Archer has been ruled out of this winter’s Ashes tour and the Twenty20 World Cup after suffering a fresh stress fracture in his right elbow.
The news is a crushing blow not just to the 26-year-old paceman, who has endured a painful year trying and failing to conquer his fitness problems, but also to the wider England team.
Archer played a vital role in the 2019 World Cup win, burst on to the Test scene in stunning fashion just a few weeks later and was viewed as a potential difference-maker in England’s bid to lift a second limited-overs crown then reclaim the urn in Australia.
Instead, he is facing up to a potentially seismic injury setback and will not play again until next year at best.
The prognosis is close to a worst-case scenario and it now seems a legitimate question as to whether he will ever again be in a position to bowl with his customary searing pace on a consistent basis. Indeed, the very viability of his Test career may be in doubt given the punishing demands of five-day cricket.
Archer was first diagnosed with a stress fracture in his bowling arm after breaking down on the South Africa tour of 2019-20, but worked his way back before the problem resurfaced.
He has been treated with cortisone injections in the joint, most recently during another injury-hit tour of India earlier this year, and underwent surgery in May to remove a bone fragment. He also went under the knife in March to have a piece of glass removed from his finger, following an unrelated incident involving a dropped fish bowl.
England had hoped their X factor bowling option would be ready to play some part in the ongoing home series against India but his comeback with Sussex hit the rocks after just two low-key appearances and nine overs.
Archer did not feel good after his outings against Kent and Oxfordshire and was assessed by specialists on Wednesday.
A sobering statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board read: “England fast bowler Jofra Archer underwent further scans on his injured right elbow last week. The scans revealed that he has suffered a recurrence of a stress fracture of his right elbow.
“In response to these findings, he has been ruled out for the rest of the year and will miss the current LV= Insurance Test series against India, the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 and the Ashes series in Australia.
“The 26-year-old, who had an operation in May to remove a bone fragment from his elbow, returned to play last month. As part of his return-to-bowling programme, he became aware of increasing discomfort in his elbow during matches for Sussex in the Vitality Blast and a 50-over friendly against Oxfordshire.
“He will now spend time on an extended break from cricket before returning for a medical review in early autumn.”
Archer is the second of England’s emerging battery of 90mph bowlers to suffer a significant injury this summer, with Warwickshire’s Olly Stone also facing up to a lengthy period on the sidelines with a stress fracture of the lower back.
England had hoped they would go Down Under with an attack boasting genuine firepower but of their raw pace options only Mark Wood, who has had his own lengthy battles against a brittle body, is currently fit.