BURY cricketer John Simpson has received a shock call-up to England’s ODI squad to face Pakistan.

With the whole of the initial England squad forced into isolation by a Covid outbreak, the ECB have named a replacement squad for the series, which starts today in Cardiff before games at Lord’s and Edgbaston.

Simpson, 32, was pulled out of his county game at Cheltenham where he was playing for Middlesex against Gloucestershire and travelled to join up with the rest of the 18-man party.

The wicketkeeper-batsman, a former St Gabriel’s RC High School pupil, played first-team Lancashire League cricket for Haslingden when only 10 years old and went on to represent Lancashire from Under-11 upwards.

Yet, despite appearing for Lancashire seconds and earning his first England Under-19s call-up for the 2005 tour of Bangladesh, it took a move to Middlesex to realise his professional cricketing ambitions.

Simpson’s dad Jack played for Ramsbottom for many years while his cousins, Ashley and Dominic Gowers, play for Brooksbottom.

Ben Stokes will captain the new-look squad which includes Lancashire duo Matt Parkinson and Saqib Mahmood.

The scale of the Covid issue, three players and four staff members testing positive, meant the full initial squad were deemed to be close contacts, and all members of the party were instructed to isolate for 10 days from July 4, in line with public health guidelines.

Ashley Giles, director of men’s cricket at the ECB, said he was “very confident” there had been no breach of the team protocols and put the developments down to the Delta variant and a slight relaxation around travel and accommodation plans.

Last year’s ‘bio-secure bubble’ proved highly effective in keeping coronavirus out but was deemed too demanding as a long-term solution.

“I’m very confident the players haven’t breached any of those protocols. We can’t say where it originated. The squad have been living under very tight restrictions,” said Giles.

“We haven’t gambled. I don’t believe we’ve gambled at all.

“We are fully aware of the risks and we are aware of the knife edge that we are working on all the time.”