by Julian Guyer
LONDON - England are set to name an entirely new squad for their upcoming one-day international series against Pakistan after a major Covid-19 outbreak within their camp, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced Tuesday.
PCR tests administered in Bristol on Monday showed three as yet unnamed players and four support staff returning positive results, with the rest of the group deemed to be close contacts and having to self-isolate as well.
But the ECB has insisted the three-match series against Pakistan, due to start in Cardiff on Thursday, will go ahead.
A new squad, with all-rounder Ben Stokes taking over the captaincy from Eoin Morgan, is due to be announced later Tuesday.
Stokes, who has been returning to full fitness by playing for county side Durham following a finger injury suffered playing in the Indian Premier League, is now set to make his first England appearance since March.
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 well-being 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," he added.
England, the reigning men's 50-over world champions, completed a 2-0 ODI series win over Sri Lanka when the third and final match of the series in Bristol on Sunday ended in a no-result washout.
Incoming squad players and support staff will now undergo PCR tests and bridging protocols to ensure their safe entry into the England camp.
Several players could now find themselves handed an unexpected opportunity to play international cricket, with Hampshire captain James Vince one of those in line for a possible call-up.
After Thursday's match in Cardiff, the ODI series continues at Lord's on Saturday before finishing at Edgbaston in Birmingham a week on Tuesday.
England and Pakistan are then due to play three Twenty20 internationals on July 16, 18 and 20, with the matches taking place at Trent Bridge, Headingley and Old Trafford respectively.