The ECB, on Friday, announced a 16-man squad for the two-Test series against Sri Lanka and handed a Test recall to Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali, both of whom last played Test cricket in 2019. While the duo remain notable inclusions, the board decided to give rest to both Archer and Stokes.
One year after seemingly phasing out Jonny Bairstow from the Test set-up the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have handed the gloveman a sensational recall for the two-match Test series against Sri Lanka, naming him in the 16-man squad for the series touted to take place in January. Bairstow, 31, did not play a single Test in England’s home summer six months ago, but his impressive record in the Lankan Island - he averages 62.50 there and scored a century in the 2018 tour - has seen him earn a recall.
Meanwhile, Moeen Ali, who stepped away from Test cricket temporarily post the first Ashes Test in Edgbaston, will also be making a comeback to the red-ball side, having been included in the 16-man squad as a third spinning option alongside incumbents Dom Bess and Jack Leach. Ali scalped 18 wickets in England’s subsequent tour of Sri Lanka in 2018 and was integral to the 3-0 clean sweep that Joe Root’s side inflicted.
Barring the recall of the two aforementioned veterans, there are no surprising selections, with Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran all keeping their places on the back of impressive performances in the summer. Despite being touted to be a ‘home specialist’, Jimmy Anderson has been picked in the squad, while Stuart Broad, who was the summer’s MVP for England, has also been included. Whether the duo will play together remains to be seen, as both Olly Stone and Mark Wood, two impressive pacers who can clock 90 mph on a consistent basis, have also been included to provide added impetus to the pace attack.
Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer, however, have been given an extended rest by the board, and are expected to join the rest of the camp post the Lanka tour, prior to the two-month-long assignment against the Indians. Both the players were also incidentally rested from the ODIs against South Africa, that got cancelled owing to a Covid outbreak inside the Proteas bubble.
The two-Test series, which will be played in Galle behind closed doors, will commence on January 14.
Squad: Joe Root(c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
Reserves: James Bracey, Mason Crane, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Robinson, Amar Virdi.