England will be without Nottinghamshire duo Alex Hales and Jake Ball for their opening contest against the West Indies, captain Eoin Morgan has confirmed. The tourists travel to Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua on Friday (3 March) for the first match of a three-game ODI series.
Opener Hales, who memorably struck 171 on a record-breaking day against Pakistan last summer to end Robin Smith's 23-year reign as England's highest individual ODI scorer, fractured his right hand during a one-day loss to India in January and was subsequently ruled out for the remainder of the tour. While that injury kept him out of the initial squad for the Caribbean, the 28-year-old flew out to join his teammates earlier this week with the ECB claiming that he would "continue his rehab with us until the medical and coaching teams deem he is fit enough to join the squad officially".
Seamer Ball was named in the original touring party, but subsequently experienced pain in the back of his right knee while bowling his third over during a two-wicket warm-up victory over a West Indies Cricket Board President's XI on Monday (27 February).
He was sent for a scan, while England called up Surrey's Tom Curran as cover after he took 10 wickets for the Lions in two-four day matches against Sri Lanka A.
"Jake hasn't pulled up as well as we thought so he's going to try and get himself ready for the second and third games," Morgan told BBC Test Match Special.
"Alex Hales is obviously in and around the squad as part of his rehab. He's in a better position than anybody else, he's got the all-clear to go ahead and push things as hard as he can. It's up to him to get his fitness right and prove that in order to be selected.
"No he's not [in line to be selected tomorrow]. He's only had one practice session since he's had the all-clear."
With Hales still out, Kent wicket-keeper batsman Sam Billings looks set to keep his place at the top of the order alongside Jason Roy. This is despite Jonny Bairstow, propelled up the order with Roy rested as a precaution due to a bruised hand, hitting an unbeaten 86 during that final warm-up clash in Saint Kitts.
Billings, meanwhile, made just two in the same match and similarly failed to impress with 16 in the opening 117-run defeat of a UWI Vice Chancellor's XI at Warner Park.
When asked if Billings would open, Morgan added: "There is a chance, yeah. He might get injured tomorrow or some things might change. But yeah, we'll wait until the toss to announce the team".