Archer back, with Ashes 2023 in his sights

With the Ashes less seven months away England quick Jofra Archer has made his long-awaited return to action.

The pacer delivered nine overs, and was sharp enough to crack England opener Zak Crawley on the helmet, as he played in a warm-up match between England's Test team and their development side, the England Lions.

England currently have a battery of pace bowlers, but many have been afflicted by injury in recent years, including the two genuinely fast ones, Archer and Mark Wood.

Skipper Ben Stokes will be keen to have at least one available for each Ashes Test, and ideally both to allow some rotation with the five Tests being squeezed into a 46-day period.

The Lions match is being played in Dubai as part of the Test team's preparation for their forthcoming tour of Pakistan.

Archer has not played competitively for 18 months due to longstanding elbow problems and a stress fracture of the lower back, but ramped up his rehabilitation by lining up for the Lions.

Later on Wednesday, in a further sign he is on the mend, Archer was signed by MI Cape Town as a wild card pick for the inaugural edition of the SA20 T20 competition. That begins on January 10.

England have a two-Test tour to New Zealand in February, but that may be too soon for his Test return.

However, as promising as his spell was the only wicket claimed by the 27-year-old was a run out, throwing down the stumps at the non-striker's end to dismiss Crawley for 96.

On a flat batting track England had made 7-501 at stumps in this non-first-class match. Ollie Pope, stand-in captain in place of the rested skipper Ben Stokes, cracked 146 in 120 balls and uncapped all-rounder Will Jacks 84 off 48 deliveries.

Teenaged legspinner Rehan Ahmed returned 0 for 73 from eight overs, though that was unlikely to have dented his joy at being called into the senior squad for the tour.

Should the England under-19 international make his debut in Pakistan he would become England's youngest men's test cricketer beating the record of Brian Close, who represented England at 18 years and 149 days against New Zealand in July 1949.

The first of three Tests in the series is on December 1 in Rawalpindi. The test will be England's first in Pakistan since 2005.

- With PA