A new England squad will be named as initial team forced to isolate due to three players and four backroom staff testing positive for Covid-19; Ben Stokes will return to England side as captain; England play Pakistan in the first ODI in Cardiff on Thursday, live on Sky Sports Cricket
Tuesday 6 July 2021 12:01, UK
England have been forced to select a new team for the Pakistan ODI series after seven positive Covid-19 tests pushed the entire squad into isolation.
Three England players and four backroom staff have tested positive for Covid-19, with the rest of the squad deemed close contacts.
The first ODI is on Thursday in Cardiff, live on Sky Sports Cricket, and will still go ahead.
Ben Stokes will return to the England side as captain after several weeks out with a fractured finger, despite Eoin Morgan initially saying it would be too soon for the all-rounder to be considered.
The rest of the new team to face Pakistan will be named later on Tuesday.
Chris Silverwood was not in charge of the ODI series against Sri Lanka as he was taking a break and will be available to return as head coach.
"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," said Tom Harrison, chief executive at the ECB.
"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.''
Sky Sports cricket expert and former England captain Nasser Hussain praised the ECB for the way they have handled the Covid bubble but says the latest outbreak will cause "absolute chaos".
"It shows how well England and the ECB have done over the last 15 months during Covid times to keep it out of the bubble, whether it was the completely tight bubble, something that has been eased slightly and I think they had to ease that bubble slightly," he told Sky Sports News.
"Cricketers have been going around the world in bubbles and just for the sake of their mental health, when they turn up to the ground and see normal society out there and being relaxed slightly then that's what they have to do with their players.
"It's now got in the camp and now they will have to react.
"It will cause chaos because obviously they have to pick a completely different squad, that's 16 players and then backroom staff and coaches ruled out.
"They will have to pull the bulk of those players out of county cricket, there is a round of County Championship games going on now and all those counties will have to replace those players and get them tested.
"The players who are pulled out will have to get to Cardiff and get tested to enter the bubble so it will be absolute chaos at ECB towers right now."
Hussain believes England will still be able to put out a "pretty good side" against Pakistan, suggesting even James Anderson and Stuart Broad could get a call-up to fill the gaps.
"It will be disruptive but English cricket can handle it a little bit better because of the depth, especially to their white-ball squad," he said.
"I think it was Sam Billings last year said the white-ball team was one of the hardest teams in the world to get into. So because they have so much depth, I think they will handle it and the side that they put out on Thursday for the first ODI against Pakistan will be a pretty good side, to be honest.
"I've got some names here: Stokes as captain, I think Jos Buttler and Ollie Pope are still injured, Dawid Malan is away for personal reasons but you could then go James Vince, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Harry Brook, Dan Lawrence, [Matt] Parkinson, [Sam] Hain, [Saqib] Mahmood, [Will] Jacks, [Phil] Salt, [Ben] Cox, Craig Overton - even Anderson and Broad might get a call-up!
"There is a lot of young, or youngish, talented white-ball cricketers out there."
Watch the first ODI between England and Pakistan, in Cardiff, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 12.30pm on Thursday.