Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Rory Burns return for Chennai Tests
Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran and Mark Wood have been rested by England for the first two Tests of their series in India next month, with Jofra Archer, Ben Stokes and Rory Burns all added to the squad currently touring Sri Lanka.
Ollie Pope, who is currently in Sri Lanka continuing his rehab after a shoulder injury, will also travel to India and will be added to the squad when passed fit. Excluding Pope, the squad comprises 16 players, while six of the seven reserves will travel to India from Sri Lanka on standby in case of illness or injury. Craig Overton will return home, subject to the fitness of the rest of the touring party.
England had signalled their intentions to rest all of their multi-format players at some stage after Christmas when naming their squad for the ongoing Sri Lanka series, with Archer and Stokes rested for those two Tests. Burns returns following paternity leave.
The decision to rest Bairstow for the start of the series leaves England with fewer selection headaches than they might have anticipated. Zak Crawley has been moved up to open alongside Dom Sibley in Galle, but looks set to move back down to No. 3 – where Bairstow has batted – with Burns back at the top of the order.
After missing the series in Sri Lanka following a positive Covid test, Moeen Ali will be in contention for the first two Tests in Chennai, which start on February 5. England will have various options as to how they balance their side, with Stokes’ return to the middle order likely to provide them with greater flexibility.
Jos Buttler is set to continue as first-choice wicketkeeper after an accomplished performance with the gloves in the first Sri Lanka Test, but is likely to be rested for the second half of the series, with Ed Smith, England’s national selector, suggesting in December that Ben Foakes would be handed a chance at some stage on the tour.
Wood’s omission could create an opportunity for Olly Stone to win his second Test cap, after he was surprisingly overlooked for Friday’s second Test in Galle.
Speaking before the squad’s announcement, Joe Root said that he was heartened by the competition for places within the squad.
“I certainly feel like it’s growing all the time, and that’s really exciting,” Root said. “In terms of our fast bowling, we’ve seen more and more depth, and that’s continued over the summer and winter and is really nice to see. For that to now be happening in the batting, not just middle order but top order as well, I think that’s a really good place for us. Competition for places is always something that stands out in improving teams.
“It’s something that these big squads in bubble life and modern-day touring is a real benefit. It’s great to have so many guys wanting to get better, making the most of learning from these experiences. It will grow us as a team, will definitely make our squad depth better and improve us as a team.”
Root said that Archer and Stokes’ returns would provide “a huge boost”, and suggested that they would be refreshed after time off in recent weeks.
“You speak to any side in the world, those two guys coming back into it would give the squad a huge boost and it’s certainly the case for us,” he said. “They’re two wonderfully talented players [and] with the climate and environment we’re in, resting players is going to be vital.
“It’s a huge year of Test cricket and also a [T20] World Cup, and a lot of one-day cricket alongside. We’re going to have to look after players. It’s crucial we look after them and others as well, that we look after each other and make sure we’ve got guys who are fit and raring to go, physically and mentally, for everything that’s going to be thrown at us in the next 12 months.”
England squad for India (first two Tests): Joe Root (capt), Jofra Archer, Moeen Ali, James Anderson (Lancashire), Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
Reserves: James Bracey, Mason Crane, Saqib Mahmood, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Robinson, Amar Virdi
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98