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Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes remain in doubt for Pakistan T20Is, says Eoin Morgan

Senior pair could feature in one white-ball game between them this summer

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Ben Stokes celebrates a wicket with Jason Roy and Jos Buttler  •  Getty Images

Ben Stokes celebrates a wicket with Jason Roy and Jos Buttler  •  Getty Images

Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes could play a single white-ball international between them this summer, after Eoin Morgan confirmed that their involvement in this month's T20I series against Pakistan is in doubt.
Buttler played the first T20I of England's home summer, making 68 not out against Sri Lanka, but has missed the following five limited-overs internationals with a calf tear that has also ruled him out of this week's ODI series against Pakistan, which starts in Cardiff on Thursday.
Stokes, meanwhile, missed the whole of Sri Lanka's tour while recovering from the finger injury he sustained in Rajasthan Royals' opening IPL fixture, and while he has been playing county cricket over the past two weeks, England are wary of rushing him back with an eye on upcoming Test series against India and Australia, as well as the T20 World Cup.
"There's always a fine balance between looking at the here-and-now and planning towards the T20 World Cup, also bearing in mind that those two guys are all-format players so they will probably go Down Under and play in the Ashes as well," Morgan said following Sunday's no-result against Sri Lanka. "Trying to balance that along with trying to get the best squad out can be difficult at times, but I think at the moment we're spoiled for choice."
Stokes has been named in Durham's County Championship side for the first time in three years in this week's fixture against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, and has played six times in the Vitality Blast over the past two weeks - though his comeback was accelerated by a second-team player testing positive for Covid-19, creating an availability crisis as several squad members were forced to self-isolate.
But Morgan insisted the players would not be rushed back at the risk of further damage, and that the Pakistan series was not a priority in comparison to events later in the year. "The last thing we want to do is rush somebody back and jump with the level of intensity from county cricket to international when there isn't necessarily a need," Morgan said. "We are happy for Ben to progress as he sees fit, and obviously have one eye on the Test series as well.
"From what I'm hearing, calves can be quite temperamental - it just depends on how he [Buttler] feels. In a similar instance to Ben, the priority wouldn't be to get him back as soon as possible if there's a 50-50 chance. I know he progressed his running a couple of days ago and does feel good, but things can change."
The squad for the T20I series is due to be named between the second and third ODIs, and if both players miss out it will mean minimal involvement with the limited-overs sides this summer. They are both likely to return in time to play the opening rounds of the Hundred before the start of the India series, at Trent Bridge on August 4.
Morgan also explained the decision not to rotate players in Sunday's third ODI, with Tom Banton and George Garton both left to run the drinks after being pulled out of the Blast, and said that Sam Billings and Moeen Ali would have been promoted up the order to get time in the middle ahead of Pakistan's tour, but for the rain's intervention.
"When we look at players [and] when Tom has been in the side before, we've earmarked a number of games throughout the series that he would play. We did that in New Zealand when he played [in late 2019] and we did it last year. It's very rare that we will put somebody in for a one-off game.
"The reason behind that is that it doesn't hold a lot of context, unless it's tied in with a string of games. When you identify a player or a talent to come into a squad, I believe you should always invest in that talent and think long-term so therefore identify down the line after he's been around the side for a little period of time and becomes comfortable, to give him a number of opportunities and not just one.
"For years I've watched guys come in and out of sides and being given one-off games, and whether it's [through] opportunity or form, not given many after that. It's not a way that you want to treat a good asset, or an asset for the future.
"We have given guys games in this series that haven't played in the T20 series, and that's a conscious effort to get games under guys' belts. With the limited opportunity, you want guys to be exposed as much as possible but that didn't necessarily happen throughout both series. That aside, when you consider the threat that Sri Lanka are and their ability - they beat us in the World Cup and have a lot of capabilities and talent - to beat them the way that we did, that's quite a big positive."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98