Jofra Archer’s back

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2 minute read

As in ‘returned’. He hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything. So what does this mean? It’s almost two years since he last played for England. Where does he fit in these days?

Yesterday, Jofra Archer made his return for Mumbai Indians Cape Town – almost literally a franchise within a franchise, with one foot in India, the other in South Africa and its balls dangling in the warm Arabian Sea.

MI Cape Town were playing the similarly salty-bollocked Paarl Royals, who have the same owners as the Rajasthan Royals.

The Indian influence didn’t extend to the playing staff though. The match was a largely Anglo-South African affair with Archer, Sam Curran and Olly Stone all bowling for MI Cape Town to Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan.

Archer’s appearance was the most significant though as this was his first competitive game for 17 months.


A lot’s happened with England in that time. Despite his 2019 successes, this may be good news for Archer as Joe Root had a tendency to bowl him more than anyone else before suggesting he wasn’t putting the effort in.

At the same time, who is Jofra Archer? The fast bowler’s entire international career extends to just 86 wickets across three formats. To put that in context, Jack Leach, who still feels a relative newcomer – and who has been in and out of the side in just the one format – has taken 110.

There’s a temptation to think that we’re all falling into that old trap of embiggening the player who hasn’t actually been playing. You’re always a better player out of the side and all that.

But then you remember. Some of those wickets did help steer England to a World Cup win. And there were also those Test spells that were unlike anything else you’ll ever see.

So yeah, it’s fair enough to want to keep tabs on Archer. At the age of 27, there are still a lot of games in which he could do something pretty memorable.

So how did he look?

Much the same as he ever did. Still carefully but purposefully sidling in before unfurling what must surely be the narrowest bowling action in international cricket.

That action, so laboriously honed, also appears to remain freakishly difficult to read. Therein lies the heart of Archer’s excellence with batters seemingly never quite sure whether they’re combating a length ball, a bouncer or a slower ball, even once it’s on the way towards them.

Four overs ain’t a lot, but in a world awash with Not-Quite-The-IPL franchise leagues Archer won’t want for opportunities to string such spells together. His workload will build. Longer formats will return into view.

For now, Archer is still hard to pick, Archer is still getting wickets.

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  1. King Cricket’s ankylosing spondylitis gag’s back.

    As in ‘returned’. Gag’s cannot get ankylosing spondylitis or anything.

    It’s been a while, but it was worth the wait. (Both for the gag and for Jofra Archer.)

      1. This is an astonishing coincidence, since I have been awaiting the return of the ankylosing spondylitis gag precisely so I could report a new phenomenon of Grocery English – saw one down a high street with the classic grocer’s blackboard, chalked up with

        Goúrmet Pies
        [Picture of a Goúrmet Pie, which basically seems to be a normal-looking pie in a blue case]

        Steam Puddings
        [Picture of a Steam Pudding, which looks thinner than a Goúrmet Pie but has a pink case and oodles of steam emanating from the top]
        Then in the space where the price should be, a yellow sticky note has been sticky-taped on top of the blackboard
        THERE BACK!

      2. Not that photographic evidence is required; I’m of such little imagination that I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a spelling as “Goúrmet Pies”; if you’d told me to write a hundred variations of “Gourmet” in the style of Grocery English it would simply never have occurred to me to stick a Czech/Icelandic-style acute accent on the “u”.

        But despite that, what I found so deliciously satisfying was the way the Goúrmet Pies proved but an appetiser to the more predictable, but perfectly timed, return of the Steam Puddings.

      3. We like how the ú hints at overly clever-cleverness before the ‘there’ completely strips that away.

        A steam pie doesn’t sound very filling.

        If you send the photo we can probably embed it within your comment.

      4. Steam pie would indeed be a strange and probably unsatisfying comestible. But Bail-out’s grammatically challenged grocers we’re selling steam puddings, which is very much a thing.

        Give me a steamed steak & kidney pudding ahead of a steak and kidney pie any day. Steak & ale is another matter; pie please.

      5. I have endeavoured to provide the necessaries, yer Maj. I actually enjoy a steam pud myself, particularly with home-made jam. Scrumptious. I wonder if the too-clever-by-half accents were due to confusion with gourmet’s rhyming partner “crème brûlée”, which is basically a way to show off both your ability to enter complicated characters on a keyboard and your fancy culinary abilities. Interestingly, although both of French origin, they are otherwise etymologically unrelated, and the French originally got “gourmet” from English (in its sense of servant in charge of wine it derives from the Middle English “grome”, meaning boy or servant, which was also the origin of our word “groom”) before handing it back to us in the sense of a connoisseur of food and drink, or the quality produce such a tasteful chap would enjoy.

      6. Can’t see anything Bail-out, even in junk mail. Did you send it to king@thisdomainname? Just tested it from another email address and stuff does seem to be getting through okay.

      7. I did indeed yer Maj – tried again by replying to a previous email conversation between us (re: cricket equipment in unusual places), so I rate the chances of success slightly higher this time.

        Btw Ged, I wondered whether you we’re teasing us, or if instead your phones’ autocorrect had developed an unusually subtle humour, perhap’s. (Unexpected truth in jest: it was originally spelt “perhappes” or “perhappous” so an apostrophe of abbreviation in that position may not be illogical, cap’n.)

      8. Top stuff yer Maj. Don’t often get to see signage like that these days. Or that moustaches/hat/apron/bow-tie/grin combination – that’s proper customer service, holding the sign all day.

      9. It’s actually a butcher-cum-grocer so the mix is even more eclectic than the hoardings suggest! As a vegetarian I suppose I ought to love my local grocer but all the sights and smells of a butcher tend to put me off venturing inside, sadly. They did have the wit (and correct grammar) to call it “Meat & Two Veg” which is funny but also always reveals something about the mindset of the reader/potential customer…

  2. So yeah, it’s fair enough to want to keep tabs on Archer.

    I will indulge in no such moderation, and intend to resume my previous unreasonable-bordering-on-unhinged levels of expectation. I’ve not been this excited for an ankylosing spondylitis joke run-out in many a year.

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