Harry Brook pushed out of preliminary World Cup squad by Ben Stokes’ return

By Sports Desk August 16, 2023

Ben Stokes reversing his ODI retirement has had the knock-on effect of Harry Brook being nudged out of England’s preliminary squad for the defence of their World Cup crown.

England have named a 15-man squad for four tune-ups against New Zealand next month and, barring injury, that is the group which will bid to retain their 50-over world title in India in October and November.

Jofra Archer’s elbow troubles will be preclude his involvement until at least the latter stages of the tournament so England have bolstered their pace attack by calling up uncapped quick Gus Atkinson.

Archer and Brook may be selected as two of three travelling reserves, with England having until September 5 to submit a provisional squad and then September 28 by which to make any alterations.

The return of Stokes was widely-anticipated but less expected was Brook’s omission, as the Yorkshireman has excelled in the past 12 months even if schedule conflicts have limited him to three ODI matches.

“It’s as hard a decision as you’re ever going to get,” said England men’s national selector Luke Wright. “No doubting he’s someone we couldn’t think any more highly of.

“Everything’s going brilliantly with Brooky. There’s no denying what a superstar he is and what a huge future he’s got with us going forward in all forms.

“I’m sure he’s disappointed. But unfortunately in a 15-man squad, someone’s going to have to miss out. With Stokesy coming back, it made it incredibly tough.”

Stokes branded his three-format schedule as “unsustainable” when bowing out of ODIs last summer while he had initially planned to use a six-month gap between Tests to address a chronic left knee injury.

The issue meant he did not bowl in the last three Ashes Tests but he is set for a specialist batting role as England have selected an influx of all-rounders in Liam Livingstone, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran.

England’s Test captain was the inspiration behind their historic triumph in the 2019 World Cup final – he is one of nine survivors to make this autumn’s edition – and in last year’s T20 equivalent.

“It wasn’t really a case of changing his mind,” said Wright. “Once his body was in a good place and he’d had a rest, he was really keen to play. He still has time to do his rest and rehab, which he’s doing, and he says his knee does feel like it’s improving.

“The one thing we won’t be doing is pushing him to bowl unless he’s absolutely fit and raring to go.

“Ultimately the decision came down to ‘it’s a World Cup we want to win and we feel like we are better, and have more chance, with Stokesy than we haven’t’. If ever there’s someone for the big moments it’s Ben Stokes.”

Atkinson has featured in just two List A matches in his career but has impressed when called upon in recent months for Surrey and Oval Invincibles, where he was clocked at 95mph in The Hundred.

The 25-year-old gives England an additional express pace option other than Mark Wood, joining a fast bowling attack comprising Chris Woakes plus three left-armers in Curran, David Willey and Reece Topley.

“First and foremost, Gus deserves to be in there,” said Wright. “He’s been someone that I’ve been quite a big fan of for quite a while, he roughed me up on a few occasions when I was still playing.

“He’s a real asset for us and we’re delighted to give him an opportunity.”

Archer was England’s super over hero four years ago but is at the start of the comeback trail from another stress fracture in his bowling elbow and England do not want to rush his recovery.

“There has got to be a duty of care with Jof, we know how desperate we all are to have him, there’s no doubt about that, but we’ve also got to get it right for him,” added Wright.

“The best case scenario for Jof at the moment would probably be to be available for the back end of the tournament. But obviously, a lot of things have still got to go right with this rehab before then.”

Before four ODIs against New Zealand from September 8-15 – they play the same opponents in the World Cup opener in Ahmedabad on October 5 – England begin their white-ball summer programme with four T20s against the Kiwis from August 30-September 5.

Hampshire seamer John Turner has earned his first senior call-up, while Josh Tongue, who has caught the eye in the Test side this summer, is set for his maiden experience of England’s limited-overs set-up.

England ODI squadEngland T20 squad: J Buttler (captain), R Ahmed, M Ali, G Atkinson, J Bairstow, H Brook, S Curran, B Duckett, W Jacks, L Livingstone, D Malan, A Rashid, J Tongue, J Turner, L Wood.

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