England have announced a completely new squad for the upcoming limited-overs series with Pakistan after their original group was ruled out of action after seven members tested positive for Covid-19.
On Monday evening, PCR tests were administered in which three players and four of the management tested positive. The replacements, expressly for the three ODIs at this stage, feature nine uncapped players and will be captained by Ben Stokes. The all-rounder returned to competitive cricket last month after missing the limited-overs series against Sri Lanka with a broken finger sustained during the Indian Premier League.
Most of the seven affected – three players and four members of staff – are asymptomatic, and the ECB confirmed those that are unwell are not feeling significantly so at this stage. In collaboration with Public Health England, Public Health Wales and Bristol Local Health Authority, those impacted will now observe a period of self-isolation from 4 July following the UK government’s protocol on quarantine. The remaining party were deemed close contacts and are isolating.
The ECB scrabbled overnight to put together a new squad. Many of those selected were playing one of the eight County Championship matches taking place, all of which began on Sunday. They were removed immediately, with in-game substitutions to be announced by their respective counties.
Head coach Chris Silverwood is returning from his holiday to take charge after originally having both series off. Assistants Paul Collingwood and Graham Thorpe, who had assumed head coaching duties for Sri Lanka and Pakistan, are not isolating
The ECB also confirmed the upcoming limited-overs series against Pakistan, featuring three ODIs and three T20s, will still go ahead and do not expect this episode to affect fan attendance for these six matches. The first of the 50-over matches takes place in Cardiff on Thursday. The incoming squad and support staff will follow PCR tests and bridging protocols to ensure safe entry to camp.
Though a unique situation, the omission of Alex Hales seems to be yet further confirmation his England days are numbered. England captain Eoin Morgan has spoken in the last few months of a willingness to re-assimilate him into the fold after two years out for failing a second drugs test prior to the 2019 World Cup. Hales has been in form with 382 runs at 47.75 in the T20 Blast, though it may well be that part of his return is with a view to building bridges with the established team rather than with a second string.
Other notable omissions include Hales’s Nottinghamshire teammate Joe Clarke, Sussex’s Chris Jordan (who is still recovering from a groin strain) and Warwickshire’s Sam Hain, who averages a remarkable 59.78 in List A cricket.
The managing director of England men’s cricket, Ashley Giles, said: “It’s a great opportunity to play on the biggest stage, and for most of the players selected it’s not necessarily something they would have been expecting 24 hours ago.
“We’re in unprecedented territory, in terms of replacing an entire squad and management team, and I’m very proud of how everyone has come together in order to get it done - both those within the ECB and from the county game.
“Ben hasn’t captained our ODI side before so it’s a huge honour for him. We all wish him well and it’s a role I’m sure he’ll thrive in. I’d like to also put on record the thanks of the ECB to the PCB for their support and understanding during this time.”
Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive officer, added: ‘‘We have been mindful that the emergence of the Delta variant, along with our move away from the stringent enforcement of bio secure environments, could increase the chances of an outbreak. We made a strategic choice to try to adapt protocols, in order to support the overall wellbeing of our players and management staff who have spent much of the last 14 months living in very restricted conditions.”
Ben Stokes (Durham, captain), Jake Ball (Nottinghamshire), Danny Briggs (Warwickshire), Brydon Carse (Durham), Zak Crawley (Kent), Ben Duckett (Nottinghamshire), Lewis Gregory (Somerset), Tom Helm (Middlesex), Will Jacks (Surrey), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire), Dawid Malan (Yorkshire), Craig Overton (Somerset), Matt Parkinson (Lancashire), David Payne (Gloucestershire), Phil Salt (Sussex), John Simpson (Middlesex), James Vince (Hampshire)
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