Archer revels in 'surreal' return from injury after six-wicket haul for England
Jofra Archer reflected on a "surreal" feeling after a "long road" back from injury following his six-wicket haul for England in Wednesday's ODI victory over South Africa.
The fast bowler has endured a torrid time with injuries across the last three years and had not featured for England in any format since March 2021, before the white-ball series against the Proteas.
Archer managed just one wicket for 81 runs on his long-awaited return as England succumbed to a 27-run opening defeat on Friday in Bloemfontein.
The 27-year-old was rested as South Africa wrapped up the ODI series with a five-wicket win in the second encounter, but helped England avoid a 3-0 whitewash in the last clash.
He took 6-40, the third-best bowling figures for England in an ODI, as England cruised to a 59-run victory after Jos Buttler paved the way with a dominant 131 in the first innings.
"It is good being back. It has been a long road," Archer said after his maiden five-wicket haul in 50-over international cricket.
"This is a small tick but I want to see how I am in April, June, July and September.
"Being back after however many weeks, months it is kind of surreal. This is just the first series, there is loads of time to get the fine-tuning done."
A fearsome pace-bowling display reinvigorated memories of the 2019 Cricket World Cup victory and the Ashes series in the same year when Archer caused Australia problems with his aggressive style.
"He is like gold dust," former England captain Nasser Hussain told Sky Sports. "He is so valuable for English cricket and world cricket.
"What I took today, was not just his class and wicket-taking potential, but what I've missed is just the effortless grace he has."
Archer will head to the Indian Premier League to test his T20 credentials before returning to train for the upcoming Ashes series with Australia, which starts on June 16.
Former England captain Michael Atherton wants the star bowler to be managed carefully, though, with his previous injuries remaining a concern.
"Back and elbow are absolutely critical so there would have been some doubt there about whether he would get back," Atherton told Sky Sports.
"He's got some way to go yet to show he can do it across formats and then cope with an ever-demanding schedule but it was a wonderful day for him."