Jamie Smith, Dillon Pennington win first England Test call-ups

England
England are set to hand the wicketkeeping gloves to debutant Jamie Smith for the first two Tests against West Indies. Both the previous incumbents behind the stumps, Ben Foakes and Jonny Bairstow, were omitted from the 14-man squad, and there was also no place for Jack Leach, Mark Wood or Ollie Robinson as England seek to reboot their Test line-up.
With the first Test, starting on July 10 at Lord’s, being the last before James Anderson’s retirement, the West Indies series will see a change of guard in the seam attack. Dillon Pennington, like Smith, has won his first call-up and seems likely to compete with Gus Atkinson for a Test debut. Matthew Potts, whose last appearance came more than a year ago, against Ireland, has also been included alongside Chris Woakes.
Shoaib Bashir was preferred as the spin-bowling option in the squad, despite Somerset allowing him to go out on loan while picking Leach, with Dan Lawrence the spare batter after an impressive start to the season since joining Surrey.

However, it was Smith’s anointment as Test keeper that was the most significant. Despite regularly playing as a specialist batter at Surrey, where Foakes is still first choice behind the stumps, Smith’s selection represented a fresh start for England, who have chopped and changed between Foakes, Bairstow and Jos Buttler for much of the last decade.

Smith, who will turn 24 on day three of the Lord’s Test, currently averages 50.70 in this year’s County Championship and is Surrey’s leading run-scorer in the Blast, where he also keeps wicket. He has impressed with England Lions and won his maiden senior cap with the ODI team during the series with Ireland at the back end of last summer.

Others in the frame to take the gloves included England T20I opener Phil Salt and Durham’s Ollie Robinson, who made a career-best 198 against Essex earlier in the week.

The absence of the other Ollie Robinson, who began the season with Sussex admitting he had a point to prove, is also noteworthy. Robinson was previously deemed the seam bowler likeliest to step up following the departures of Anderson and Stuart Broad, but he was again affected by fitness issues on the tour of India earlier this year and has been in modest form in the Championship, taking 21 Division Two wickets at 27.85.

Instead, it is Woakes, England’s Player of the Series during the 2023 Ashes, who has been recalled after missing the tour of India, who seems likeliest to inherit the mantle of attack leader from Anderson when the teams move on to Trent Bridge for the second of three back-to-back-to-back Tests against West Indies.

That may only be a short-term move, with Woakes’ last overseas Test coming in March 2022, but he has the experience in English conditions to help bring through the next crop of seamers this summer, which also features a three-Test series with Sri Lanka in August-September. Atkinson, who was unused on the tour of India, seems set to add a Test cap to his collection, having played both white-ball formats, while Potts returns to contention despite averaging 37.17 in the Championship this season.

Most intriguing is Pennington, who moved from Worcestershire to Nottinghamshire over the winter with the aim of boosting his international prospects, and currently sits joint-second on the Division One wicket-takers’ list with 29 at 23.03. With injuries affecting a number of Test candidates, including Josh Tongue, Jamie Overton and Sam Cook, Pennington could be the beneficiary.

“The first Test of the summer is always a special moment, but it will be extra poignant with it being Jimmy’s last Test before he retires,” England men’s managing director, Rob Key, said. “He has given everything to the sport since his Test debut in 2003. We all would like to wish him well as he walks out at Lord’s for the last time for England.

“We are looking forward to getting the season underway against a strong West Indies side in what will be an excellent Test series.”

England Test squad: Ben Stokes (capt), James Anderson, Gus Atkinson, Shoaib Bashir, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Dan Lawrence, Dillon Pennington, Ollie Pope, Matthew Potts, Joe Root, Jamie Smith, Chris Woakes

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