England have recalled Jonny Bairstow, James Anderson and Mark Wood for their four-match Test series against South Africa, starting on Boxing Day. The changes come in the wake of England’s indifferent display during the tour of New Zealand where they lost the two-match series 1-0. Moeen Ali, nonetheless, continued to remain absent from the Test arena.
Bairstow lost his place in the Test side for the series in New Zealand after his dismal displays during the Ashes at home. The right-handed batsman averaged just 23.77 across the five Tests. But with Jos Buttler being the number one wicketkeeper in the Test side as well now, it would be interesting to see whether Bairstow makes it to the playing eleven straightaway.
Veteran pacer Anderson, on the other hand, has not featured in a first-class game since he broke down with a calf injury after bowling four overs in the first Ashes Test in August. He is currently in South Africa on a fast-bowling camp as he looks to prove his fitness ahead of the first Test.
Along with Anderson, Wood, who has not played since the World Cup final after battling a side strain and undergoing knee surgery, is also continuing his comeback alongside Anderson in Cape Town. Wood, in fact, has not played a Test since February this year when he claimed his maiden five-wicket haul against West Indies.
With England’s pacers struggling in New Zealand, Wood could make it to the playing eleven straightaway. Anderson and Wood’s returns saw Saqib Mahmood – an unused member of the Test squad in New Zealand – getting the axe.
“With James Anderson and Mark Wood returning to the squad, Saqib Mahmood is the unfortunate player to miss out,” said England national selector Ed Smith.
“It is not predicted that Mark will be available for selection for the earliest matches. However, he will travel with the team and continue his rehab work with the medical staff on tour.
“There is no exact date given for his return, but the medical team is working towards him becoming fully available for selection during the tour,” he added.
England will play South Africa in Centurion from Boxing Day, before further Tests in Cape Town (January 3), Port Elizabeth (January 16) and Johannesburg (January 24). The last time England had visited South Africa, they had won the series 2-1 in 2016 under former captain Alastair Cook. A year later, England had thrashed the Proteas 3-1 at home in current skipper Joe Root’s first series as captain.
England Test squad:
Joe Root (c), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Dominic Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood