Pacers Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes were the two notable absentees in the England Test squad announced on Wednesday (July 21) by the ECB for the first two Tests of their highly anticipated five-match series against India, starting August 4.
Both Archer and Woakes are in rehabilitation from their respective injuries and will not be available in time for the start of England’s campaign in the second cycle of the World Test Championship (WTC).
While Archer continues to recover from an elbow operation he underwent earlier in the year, Woakes, another integral member of England’s home Test attacks in recent years, is nursing a heel injury.
England, however, still boast of a strong enough bowling unit to challenge the visitors, with two of their greatest James Anderson and Stuart Broad joined by Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson and Sam Curran. Robinson will be making a comeback to the Test squad after being left out of the team in controversial circumstances.
Left-armer Jack Leach and offie Dom Bess will be the two spin options available to skipper Joe Root.
Buttler, Stokes make comeback to England’s Test squad after prolonged absence
The Test squad for the India series sees the return of Ben Stokes, whose finger injury had kept him sidelined since the early part of IPL 2021 in May. The premier all-rounder proved his recovery through T20 Blast fixtures with Durham and the ODI series against Pakistan where he captained an inexperienced England side to a 3-0 victory. Stokes was rested for the T20Is against Pakistan as a precautionary measure but will be up and running for the India challenge.
Star wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler has made a comeback to England’s Test squad as well after missing three of the four matches against India in February-March and also the two-match series versus New Zealand in June. Buttler has also overcome a calf injury he picked up while playing the Sri Lanka T20Is last month and is now back to fitness for the India series.
Bairstow, Hameed return as England look to strengthen the batting after loss to New Zealand
A painful 1-0 defeat to New Zealand earlier in the summer exposed England’s longstanding batting woes and brought the spotlight on selection for the India series. There were speculations that the selection committee may leave out some of the failures from the Kiwi series, but they have chosen to retain the core of the batting unit before making any tough calls.
The likes of Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Dan Lawrence have been persisted with alongside Rory Burns, Dominic Sibley, but with comeback men Jonny Bairstow and Haseeb Hameed keeping them on their toes.
Hameed, the young right-hand batsman who made a name for himself through exploits during the 2016 tour of India, had endured an extended slump with the bat thereafter. But the 24-year-old has been a cricketer rejuvenated in recent times, having enjoyed a fruitful summer for Nottinghamshire so far. Hameed has scored 642 runs from his nine games in the County Championship this season at an average of 45.86.
Bairstow has been handed a comeback as the back-up gloveman to Buttler, with Ben Foakes still recovering from a hamstring injury suffered in a freak accident in the Surrey dressing room. What would’ve also boosted Bairstow’s return are the struggles of James Bracey against the Kiwis. Bairstow, who has been a prolific opening batsman in limited-overs cricket, has played 74 Tests for England with an average of 34.12.
Trent Bridge will host the first Test versus India, followed by games at Lord’s (August 12-16), Headingley (August 25-29), The Oval (September 2-6) and Manchester (September 10-14).
England Tests squad (first two matches): Joe Root (Yorkshire) Captain, James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Dom Bess (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Rory Burns (Surrey), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Zak Crawley (Kent), Sam Curran (Surrey), Haseeb Hameed (Nottinghamshire), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Jack Leach (Somerset), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Ollie Robinson (Sussex), Dom Sibley (Warwickshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Mark Wood (Durham)