London: Saqib Mahmood is the only name missing from England’s squad which lost 1-0 in New Zealand, while James Anderson and Mark Wood return from injuries and Jonny Bairstow makes a return having been dropped.
Moeen Ali remains unavailable for selection, and his break from Test cricket will now seemingly extend until at least March 2020 when England travel to Sri Lanka.
Mahmood has not yet debuted in Tests, having not made an appearance in either Mount Maunganui or Hamilton, but makes way in the squad for two returning seamers. Anderson is returning from a torn calf which he picked up during the first Ashes Test in Birmingham, limiting his involvement in the series to the four overs he bowled in the first innings of that match before limping off, an ICC report on Saturday said.
Wood meanwhile is recovering from both an injury in his left knee as well as a side strain which he picked up during the final of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019.
National Selector Ed Smith explained Mahmood’s omittance, as well as the choice to name such a large squad.
“With James Anderson and Mark Wood returning to the squad, Saqib Mahmood is the unfortunate player to miss out,” he said in a press statement. “It is not predicted that Mark will be available for selection for the earliest matches. However, he will travel with the team and continue his rehab work with the medical staff on tour. There is no exact date given for his return, but the medical team is working towards him becoming fully available for selection during the tour.”
“With that in mind, and given the extended period that James and Mark have had on the sidelines due to injury, it was sensible to have a 17-man squad,” said Smith.
Both seamers are currently in South Africa participating in a dedicated fast-bowling camp, while Bairstow has also already made the journey to train and acclimatise ahead of the series. While Bairstow initially missed out on being named in the squad for the Test leg of England’s tour of New Zealand, he was called up as cover after Joe Denly became an injury doubt for the first Test. But Denly was declared fit and so Bairstow did not appear during the series.
The two teams will contest four Test matches starting on Boxing Day in Centurion, with 120 ICC World Test Championship points up for grabs through the series.
Squad: Joe Root (captain), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonathan Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Dominic Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood. (UNI)