England’s pace attack is starting to move through the gears with Stuart Broad and Olly Stone returning to county action this week and Jofra Archer given the all-clear to resume training after his recent surgery.
Broad was originally down to miss the opening two rounds of the County Championship while managing his workload before the Test summer starts but after sending down just 52 overs in Sri Lanka and India this year and otherwise restricted to the nets he has asked to bring forward his first outing for Nottinghamshire this season.
The 34-year-old will come up against Stone, whose Warwickshire side are visitors to Trent Bridge on Thursday. More relevant will be his new ball battle with opener Dom Sibley, however, one of a number of England batsmen free to play the entire buildup period before the first Test against New Zealand on 2 June.
Stone, on a pace development contract with England, missed Warwickshire’s opening draw at home to Derbyshire. A two-week break after the India tour, where he impressed in his solitary Test with four wickets and hostile speeds in unfamiliar conditions, meant the need for additional training time first.
There are no current concerns about Stone’s fitness and, after injuries blighted his campaign in 2020, there is growing belief of a new-found physical hardiness. Putting in consistent match-winning performances represents the new goal for a 27-year-old with just 39 first-class appearances to date, rather than simply getting on the park.
While Jimmy Anderson’s return with Lancashire is slated for next week’s fixture at Kent at the earliest, and Chris Woakes is at the Indian Premier League, it remains to be seen which of the two competitions plays host to Archer’s comeback after he turned his arm over in the nets at Sussex on Tuesday.
Archer underwent surgery on his right middle finger last month to remove glass caused by a broken fish tank at his home but more pertinent is the longstanding elbow injury that has delayed his arrival at Rajasthan Royals and could yet see England withdraw the fast bowler from the remainder of this year’s IPL.
How the elbow reacts to bowling at full intensity from next week onwards, following a second cortisone injection in the joint this year, will be central to the decision made by both England’s medical team, so too his overall workload in a year that ends with bids to win the T20 World Cup and regain the Ashes in Australia.
Archer’s Sussex teammate Ollie Robinson is on England’s radar as regards the latter and could well be handed a Test debut against New Zealand or India this summer in preparation. Mark Wood, another seamer deemed critical to both campaigns, is being held back until Durham’s fixtures in May.