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England name Test squad for Sri Lanka series: Key Points

England have recalled wicket-keeper batsman Ben Foakes and opener Keaton Jennings for the Test series against Sri Lanka in the Island Nation. The two-match series begins on 19th March with the first Test at Galle and the second on 27th March in Colombo. A part of the World Test Championship, the series will give England another stern test of their potency in Asian conditions.

Squad: Joe Root (capt), Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Ben Foakes, Keaton Jennings, Jack Leach, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood

Key points

No James Anderson

James Anderson suffered a rib injury in Cape Town during the South Africa Test series and was rested for this tour. He will be available for England later in the year when they play West Indies according to national selector, Ed Smith. 

“Jimmy Anderson will continue to work with Lancashire and the ECB so that he is ready for the start of the County Championship season leading into the Test series against the West Indies in June,” Smith said. 

The new keeping pecking order

Jonny Bairstow has lost his foothold in the Test side and was left out – rather “rested” – with Ben Foakes making a return to the country where he showed exemplary form the last time England toured. Foakes was the Player of the Series in England’s 3-0 series win in Sri Lanka two years ago, but lost his place in the very next tour only to remain in the wilderness since. Buttler, though, remains the incumbent despite his cloudy Test form in recent times. Will Foakes make the side for his batting qualities alone, though?

“Jonny Bairstow has been in England squads across the three formats without a significant break. This two-Test tour presents a good opportunity for Jonny to be rested“, Smith said.

The spin department

Adil Rashid hadn’t played any red ball cricket since being left out from the Test side last and made himself unavailable. Moeen Ali also made himself unavailable for this series although selectors are in constant conversation with him regarding his mental breakdown. With two strike spinners absent, England have gone with Jack Leach – their primary spinner for some time now – and Dom Bess, who South Africa in the absence of Leach. Matt Parkinson, the rookie leggie who made his debut in the ODIs, adds a touch of flair to the line-up and could well make his debut if England need a third spinner in the dust bowls in Lanka.

“Somerset spinner Jack Leach has recovered from his illness he picked up in South Africa and is now healthy and keen to resume his Test career. Moeen Ali is still unavailable for Test selection. The selectors are in consistent dialogue with Moeen and he remains a valued player in England cricket,” Smith said while announcing the squad. 

Keaton Jennings’ return

England’s opening places have been up for grabs for a while but Rory Burns and Dom Sibley seemed to have nailed down their respective slots. Burns, though, is unavailable for this series, and Jennings, who has had success in Asian conditions, will take up the role at the top with Zak Crawley likely to be back on the bench.

Jennings made a ton in Galle last time and averages 44.4 in Tests in the sub-continent with a successful India tour also behind him. He and Sibley will pair up at the top on this tour, a decision that seemed to have been made when Jennings was sent on a camp to Mumbai. 

“The South Africa tour marked the emergence of a very exciting group of young players, creating a nice balance with an experienced core of senior players. That squad is mostly retained, with some tweaks to the squad relevant to injury, rest and the challenges of playing in subcontinent conditions,” Smith said of the squad changes.

Rohit Sankar is a freelance cricket journalist stuck in a love-hate live-in relationship with the game. To rile him up, mention the 1999 World Cup semi-final. Rohit has been writing about cricket for well over 10 years now, and has written for a variety of news and sports outlets over this time.

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