Haseeb Hameed and the uncapped Sam Billings have been called up to England’s Test squad for the upcoming series against New Zealand after Ben Foakes tore his hamstring when slipping on the dressing room floor at the Oval while wearing socks.
Foakes was due to keep wicket in the absence of the rested Jos Buttler but the freak injury suffered following Surrey’s draw at home to Middlesex means Gloucestershire’s James Bracey will make his Test debut behind the stumps at Lord’s next week.
Usually a No 3 batsman who also keeps wicket for his county, Bracey, 24, was already in the squad as cover for Foakes and the top order. The head coach, Chris Silverwood, now in charge of selection after the organisational reshuffle that removed Ed Smith, has responded by bolstering both areas, including a return for Hameed after nearly five years in the international wilderness.
In late 2016 Hameed delivered an eye-catching debut series against India. Aged 19, the opener appeared destined for a long England career when compiling two half-centuries and batting with unflustered poise, only for a broken hand sustained in Mohali to end his tour after three Tests.
A slump in form then followed back at Lancashire the following season, dashing hopes of an immediate recall. However, having moved to Nottinghamshire after the 2019 season, the right-hander has started the current campaign in encouraging fashion with 474 runs at an average of 52.66 and twin centuries against Worcestershire.
Hameed will initially serve as injury cover for an expected top three of Dom Sibley, Rory Burns and Zak Crawley. And while the England squad meets up in London on Friday before their first training session, Hameed has been cleared to join late following the four-day Championship match away to Warwickshire that starts on Thursday.
Billings being drafted in as an understudy for Bracey and a middle order that is already missing Ben Stokes is intriguing. Kent’s captain is a regular member of the white-ball setup but has not kept wicket in first-class cricket since a Lions game in early 2019, while his previous county match doing so came the summer before.
The 29-year-old has also been preferred to Jonny Bairstow, despite both being among the England contingent who recently underwent 10 days of quarantine following the suspension of the Indian Premier League. Unlike Bairstow and Buttler, and the all-rounders Sam Curran and Chris Woakes, Billings made an immediate return to county action with Kent last week.
Bracey’s expected debut appears to set out the pecking order behind the stumps, even if the left-hander recently told BBC Sport his preferred spot would be as an opener. He came within moments of making his debut during the winter, when Burns suffered a back spasm before the second Test in India only to make a late recovery.
The accident that led to this reshuffle is a cruel blow for Foakes, who was set to make his home Test debut after eight caps won on the road. He faces three months out and a battle to make the Ashes tour next winter should Bracey impress.
Foakes’s misfortune in the Surrey dressing room is the third time this year that an England player has suffered a bizarre accident. Jofra Archer was left with glass in his finger when dropping a fish tank in his bath in January, while Crawley missed two Tests in India after slipping on a marble floor in his spikes and spraining his wrist.
Archer is starting an “intensive rehabilitation period” following surgery on his longstanding elbow problem last Friday. The fast bowler is targeting a return against India later this summer but a more accurate prognosis is due when his consultant reviews the injury in a month’s time.