England have named their squad for the tour of Sri Lanka later in March and there were very few surprises.
There are test recalls for popular Ben Foakes and much maligned Keaton Jennings, both players have very positive records in Sri Lanka.
Jos Buttler also made the cut despite his poor performances of late, but Jonny Bairstow wasn’t so lucky. The Yorkshire batsmen/wicket-keeper was has been omitted, with the selectors opting for the better keeper in Foakes.
We recently wrote why it was vital that Ben Foakes made the tour of Sri Lanka, not only is he the best keeper in England (I’d argue by a considerable margin), he also carries a 69.25 average in Sri Lanka, albeit that’s a small sample size.
There has been some talk that the pitches won’t quite turn to the extent they did in 2018, and they may carry pace a little better, but it’s still a tour where you need your best gloveman.
What I don’t want to happen is for Ben Foakes to go as a back-up and Jos Buttler start in his place. England are a better and more balanced team if Ben Foakes is in the side.
It’s understandable why England have chosen to recall Keaton Jennings as well, the Lancashire man may carry a 25 average across his international test career, but it’s considerably better in the sub-continent. Jennings has a 41.75 average in India and a 46.60 average in Sri Lanka.
His expertise and experience against the spin could prove extremely handy considering the new England openers Dominic Sibley and Zak Crawley weren’t overly convincing facing the spin of South African Maharaj.
Saying that, I still fully expect Sibley and Crawley to open in Sri Lanka. The best way to gain experience of playing in these conditions is to actual play in these conditions. England do have some warm-up games to try and get acclimatised. Although Sri Lanka may not create the same pitches for warm-ups as they do the games.
It's interesting to note that Ed Smith made a note to say that Bairstow needed a rest and Moeen was unavailable:
"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.
"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."
England as expected have gone with three spinners, Dom Bess, Jack Leach and Matt Parkinson.
Sam Curran, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood will handle the seam duties along with all-rounder Ben Stokes.
It was good to see Joe Denly retain his position following some impressive dig in performances over the last 18 months.
Ed Smith added:
"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," said national selector Ed Smith.
"That squad is mostly retained, with some tweaks relevant to injury, rest and the challenges of playing in subcontinent conditions.
England Test squad: Joe Root (Yorkshire) captain, Dominic Bess (Somerset), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Zak Crawley (Kent), Sam Curran (Surrey), Joe Denly (Kent), Ben Foakes (Surrey), Keaton Jennings (Lancashire), Jack Leach (Somerset), Matthew Parkinson (Lancashire), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Dominic Sibley (Warwickshire), Ben Stokes (Durham) vice-captain, Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham)