England have named an entirely new squad to face Pakistan in the Royal London one-day series after a major Covid-19 outbreak hit the camp.
PCR tests administered in Bristol on Monday showed three players and four members of staff returned positive results and the remainder of the group were classified as close contacts, forcing them to isolate in line with public health guidelines.
While that could easily have put the entire series in jeopardy, the England and Wales Cricket Board has resolved to play on with a hastily-convened shadow side, captained by the returning Ben Stokes.
Stokes, who has been pulled out of Durham’s LV= Insurance County Championship match against Warwickshire, had been left out originally in a bid to manage his comeback from a finger operation. That plan, along with so many others, is now in tatters. Head coach Chris Silverwood, who had been planning to take the series off, is cutting short his scheduled break to retake command.
Together, Stokes and Silverwood will lead a mix-and-match group of players and staff, pieced together at short notice and containing a mixture of Test specialists, recalls and a smattering of domestic professionals who may never have received an international call in ordinary circumstances.
The ongoing round of LV= County Championship fixtures was beset by withdrawals as a result, with players pulled from duty in live games and replaced by deputies.
ECB chief executive officer Tom Harrison said: “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.
“Overnight we have worked swiftly to identify a new squad, and we are grateful to Ben Stokes who will return to England duties to captain.
“We also recognise the impact this news will have on our first-class counties and their men’s playing squads and thank them, along with our partners Sky and Royal London, for their ongoing support in dealing with this pandemic.”
Stokes has played a number of T20 games for Durham over the last few weeks, and made his return to red ball cricket yesterday, taking three wickets.
He will now leave the Durham squad to link up with England.
Who is in the new England squad?
Zak Crawley and Dan Lawrence, hitherto selected as red-ball specialists by England, have been handed their first opportunities in limited-overs cricket cricket and are joined by Durham’s Brydon Carse, Middlesex pair Tom Helm and John Simpson, Surrey’s Will Jacks, Gloucestershire’s David Payne, Somerset’s Lewis Gregory and Phil Salt of Sussex.
Returning to the fold after absences of varying lengths are Craig Overton, Danny Briggs, Jake Ball, Ben Duckett, Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson and James Vince. Dawid Malan, who pulled out of the Sri Lanka series in question due to personal reasons, is also back.
Squad: 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)
When do England play Pakistan?
England will host Pakistan in a three-match ODI series this month. They have just completed a three-match series against Sri Lanka, winning 2-0 with the third game abandoned due to rain.
England start their 50-over series against Pakistan at Sophia Gardens on Thursday before heading to Lord’s on Saturday and then finishing at Edgbaston next Tuesday.
England are then due to play against the same opponents in three Twenty20s on July 16, 18 and 20 at Trent Bridge, Headingley and Emirates Old Trafford respectively.
1st ODI: Cardiff, July 8
2nd ODI: Lord's, July 10
3rd ODI: Edgbaston, July 13