England’s hopes of ending their India tour on a high have been dealt a major blow, with captain Eoin Morgan ruled out of their last two matches in Pune and Sam Billings also sidelined by injury.
Both men were hurt in the field as England went 1-0 behind in the one-day international series on Tuesday. Morgan required four stitches in his right hand after tearing the webbing between his thumb and index finger while Billings bruised his collarbone.
Jos Buttler will take the reins from Morgan for the second ODI on Friday, leading out a side that will contain Liam Livingstone on his 50-over debut and the once-capped Dawid Malan, who has been promoted from the standby list.
England have no time at all to bed the pair in to their batting line-up but Malan, the world’s number one Twenty20 batsman, could step up to the number three slot he has made his own in the shorter format with Livingstone potentially slotting in at six while also offering an extra spin option.
Morgan took part in a fielding drill on Thursday but was soon certain he would not be in a position to pull his weight and opted out.
“I had the hand re-dressed before the start of training but it quickly became apparent that I found myself protecting the injury and getting into the wrong positions to catch the ball. There’s nowhere to hide on the field in international cricket these days, especially in limited-over formats, so it didn’t require any great thought to make myself unavailable.
There’s nowhere to hide on the field in international cricket these days, especially in limited-over formats, so it didn’t require any great thought to make myself unavailable.Eoin Morgan
“It was a freak injury and it’s extremely frustrating but there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s now just a case of letting the cut heal. I have every confidence in Jos and the rest of the squad coping without me.”
Billings has not yet been ruled out of the series finale on Sunday but, having experienced further pain in the joint, it seems unlikely that he will be pushed back into service so soon.
His misfortune could be good news for Livingstone, who is desperate to show he is a bigger threat than the player who underwhelmed in two T20s back in June 2017.
“I have spent a lot of time around this group over last summer and the winter, so it is nice to be able to finally get a chance,” he said.
“I am absolutely ready – the first time around was very different to now and I have been waiting for this opportunity for a while now. This is not just any old team you are trying to get into. They are world champions.”
Ben Stokes, who played with Livingstone at Rajasthan Royals and will do so again at this year’s tournament, has no doubts that his fellow Cumbrian is ready to make his mark.
“Livi’s one of those guys who I think won’t let the occasion get on top of him,” said Stokes.
“He’s a fearless cricketer and has got the type of attitude we want in our set-up going forward. He’s been very impressive in training. He’s progressed as a batsman and he’s a very dangerous player.”
Stokes, meanwhile, is busy reacquainting himself with one-day cricket after ending a period of 618 days between caps. Prior to Tuesday’s 66-run defeat, his last appearance in the light blue ODI strip was his heroic showing in the 2019 World Cup final.
A combination of rest and bio-security measures had kept him away from the previous 10 matches and he is glad to be back.
“It’s crazy to think it was my first game since the World Cup final. It’s great to get back out there and play some one-day cricket,” he said.
“It was great to be back on the field. It’s amazing how quickly time can pass but it was great to be out there with the rest of the boys. The body is getting used to standing up for four hours, like it is in 50-over cricket.
“I can’t remember it taking that long but it might have been to do with the heat and the body was a bit stiff the next day.”