Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer have rested for the England Test series in Sri Lanka next month, with Essex batsman Dan Lawrence named to the team for the first time.
England will spend nearly three full months touring Asia in the new year, traveling straight from Sri Lanka to India for a three-format trip, and has come to the conclusion that you can’t ask those who play red ball cricket and white that take part in each leg.
Stokes, whose father Ged has just died after a battle with brain cancer, and key leader Archer have been excused from the double game in Galle, but will return for India. Others with heavy workloads, including test skipper Joe Root, Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler, can expect to be pulled as the winter program progresses.
The travel group consists of 16 full team members and seven reserves, who will participate in England’s pre-series practice at Hambantota and will also provide Covid-19 coverage. Starting batsman Rory Burns is not included, having previously informed the selectors of the birth of his first child, with Jonny Bairstow called up to the test team and hoping to win a first international match since December 2019.
His inclusion was a foregone conclusion from the moment he withdrew from his Big Bash League contract with Melbourne Stars to clear the necessary space in his diary. Bairstow scored a good century in his only previous test appearance in Sri Lanka hitting out of position at number three and that spot could be vacated again, with Zak Crawley likely moving to the top of the order in Burns’ absence.
Unlike Bairstow, Lawrence has made it to the BBL and is currently with the Brisbane Heat, having spent 14 days in quarantine before becoming available. The 23-year-old is one of the most trusted scorers on the national tour and an important part of Essex’s recent successes in the County Championship and the Bob Willis Trophy.
Spin is likely to be a key part of the series, with Galle known for his turn, and England have included Dom Bess, Jack Leach and Moeen Ali as their three front-line slow bowlers. Three others, Mason Crane, Matt Parkinson and Amar Virdi are among the reserves.
Adil Rashid stands out again by his absence. The leg kicker was in good shape during Twenty20’s recent washout of South Africa and both national coach Ed Smith and head coach Chris Silverwood have spoken about bringing him back to the five-day fold after two years out.
A persistent shoulder condition has prevented him from committing to that and his non-appearance on this team could suggest that a long-term decision has been agreed upon. Included in the seam attack are James Anderson and Stuart Broad, despite the unanswered pitches they experienced when England last visited in 2018, but it would be a surprise to see both men play both Trials.
J Root (c), M Ali, J Anderson, J Bairstow, D Bess, S Broad, J Buttler, Z Crawley, S Curran, B Foakes, D Lawrence, J Leach, D Sibley, O Stone, C Woakes, M Wood .
Bookings: J Bracey, M Crane, S Mahmood, C Overton, M Parkinson, O Robinson, A Virdi.
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