Jofra Archer looks set to return to competitive cricket in South Africa in January after becoming MI Cape Town’s wildcard signing for the inaugural season of the SA20.
Archer, the leading wicket-taker and Super Over hero for England in their 2019 ODI World Cup triumph, has not played an international game since March 2021 because of a long-standing elbow issue, which was followed by a stress fracture of the lower back. He has spent the last two weeks in the UAE as part of an England Lions training camp and, on Wednesday, made an encouraging return to action in a three-day warm-up match against England’s Test squad, hitting Zak Crawley in the head with a sharp bouncer in the first of nine threatening overs.
Archer was signed by Mumbai Indians in the last IPL auction for INR 8 crore [US$ 1.06 million approx. at the time] despite the franchise knowing he would be unavailable. He has, in fact, been retained for the 2023 season. And on Wednesday evening, he was unveiled as a wildcard signing by MI Cape Town – the SA20 franchise and Mumbai Indians are owned by the same group, Reliance.
The SA20 runs from January 10 until February 11, with a short break in late January for England’s re-arranged ODI series in South Africa. Archer could make his return to international cricket in that series, especially if he can prove his fitness playing for MI Cape Town.
The wildcard system, which SA20 commissioner Graeme Smith said would “offer our teams an opportunity to add another world-class player to their squad”, was formally unveiled by CSA on Monday. The only other franchise to announce a wildcard signing so far are Sunrisers Eastern Cape, who brought in Jordan Hermann, the uncapped South African batter. Wildcard players will have a minimum salary of Rand 175,000 [US$ 10,290 approx.], but their wages are not going to count towards teams’ salary caps.
Archer will join his England team-mates Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone and Olly Stone at MI Cape Town, whose squad also includes Kagiso Rabada, Dewald Brevis and Rashid Khan.