England have recalled Lancashire opener Keaton Jennings and Surrey wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Foakes for the two-Test series against Sri Lanka next month.
The pair were both discarded after the West Indies tour 12 months ago but both of Jennings’ Test hundreds have come on the subcontinent and Foakes was player of the series in England’s 3-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka in November 2018.
Foakes’ inclusion means there is no room for Jonny Bairstow in a 16-man touring party while England’s record wicket-taker James Anderson is another high-profile absentee, with Moeen Ali remaining unavailable for selection.
🚨 BREAKING NEWS 🚨
We have named our squad for the two-match Test series in Sri Lanka!
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) February 11, 2020
Moeen was England’s joint-leading wicket-taker on their last visit to Sri Lanka but his decision to continue his indefinite break from Test cricket means Jack Leach, Dom Bess and Matt Parkinson will be the frontline spinners.
Leach, who matched Moeen’s 18 wickets in Sri Lanka 16 months ago, has recovered from an illness that meant he played no part in England’s recent 3-1 series victory over South Africa.
National selector Ed Smith said: “The selection panel has supported continuity after a successful series victory in South Africa.
“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 sub-continent conditions.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
Jennings made the last of his 17 Test appearances in the Caribbean after his average dipped to 25.19 but that rises sharply to 44.44 in Asia, with one of his two international hundreds coming in Sri Lanka.
His return puts pressure on the top three of Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Joe Denly, who has been retained despite a modest series in South Africa, where his 210 runs at an average of 30 matches his career average after 14 Tests.
Jos Buttler has also struggled this winter and while England have shown faith in the wicketkeeper, they have handed a recall to Foakes, widely regarded as the best pure gloveman in the country.
Foakes marked his Test debut at Galle in November 2018 with a superb century while he was the leading run-scorer in the three-match series.
His axing after a couple of underwhelming performances against the Windies was deemed harsh in some quarters but he now has an opportunity to get back into the side ahead of a Test series which starts at Galle on March 19.
That match and the one that gets under way a week later at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo are each worth a sizeable 60 World Test Championship points to the winners.
England squad to tour Sri Lanka: Joe Root (Yorkshire, captain), Dom 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), Matt Parkinson (Lancashire), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Dom Sibley (Warwickshire), Ben Stokes (Durham, vice-captain), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham).