A freak accident in The Oval changing room has ruled Ben Foakes out for three months with a torn hamstring and, thus, out of England’s upcoming Test series against New Zealand and potentially India, too.
Foakes picked up the injury after the finale of Surrey’s County Championship match with Middlesex on Sunday. While walking through the home changing room at the end of the final day’s play, the wicketkeeper is said to have slipped in his socks, tearing his left hamstring.
The unfortunate nature of the incident is compounded by the fact that Foakes was due to play both of the New Zealand Tests, with neither Jos Buttler or Jonny Bairstow in the squad. The first match, at Lord’s on 4 June, was due to be his maiden cap in home conditions after making his previous eight appearances in Sri Lanka, the Caribbean and India. The ECB will work closely on his rehabilitation with the Surrey medical team and is expected to be out of action for at least three months, though the hope is he can return sooner.
There will be three beneficiaries of Foakes’ misfortune. James Bracey, originally in the squad as a back-up top-order batsman is now set to debut at Lord’s in the middle-order as the designated wicketkeeper. In turn, Nottinghamshire opener Haseeb Hameed has earned a recall after almost five years to offer that cover, while Kent captain Sam Billings, who returned to first-class action for Kent last week, has been drafted in as back-up keeper.
Hameed charmed the masses in the winter of 2016 with three Test appearances and 219 runs at an average of 43.80 against India. His debut at 19 in the first match of that series, in Rajkot, saw him become the youngest debutant to open for England in the format.
Sadly, the next few years were one of struggle, but the change of scenery from Lancashire to Nottinghamshire seems to be paying dividends. So far during the 2021 county season he has scored 474 runs at an average of 52.66. He will remain part of the Nottinghamshire squad for their Championship match against Warwickshire which starts at Edgbaston on Thursday before joining the England squad at their team base in London on Sunday night.
Billings, though known primarily for his white ball work, with 52 caps across ODI and T20i formats, has been considered an option for the Test squad in the past. He was close to making England’s tour of Sri Lanka in March 2020 – the first tour postponed due to Covid-19 – off the back of a 2019 season that finished with a trio of first-class centuries to take his career tally to six.
At the time of writing, it seems Billings would be the more likely of the two replacements to get a game should the situation arise. Head coach Chris Silverwood sees Bracey primarily as a frontline batter and it is likely that any issue with the top order will be covered by the Gloucestershire man, with Billings taking the gloves.