England Rest Stokes & Archer for Sri Lanka Tests

London, Dec 11 (AFP/APP): England cricket selectors have rested Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer for next month’s two-Test series in Sri Lanka but have named World Cup-winner Jonny Bairstow in the 16-strong squad.

Paceman Archer and all-rounder Stokes, whose father Ged has just died from brain cancer, will return in February for the Test series against India. England are due to spend almost three full months on tour in Asia in the New Year, travelling directly from Sri Lanka to India for a three-format trip. The selectors have decided that those who play red and white-ball cricket cannot play the entire programme. Others with major workloads, including Test skipper Joe Root, Chris Woakes and Jos Buttler, can expect to be given at rest at some stage.

Bairstow, 31, has played just one of England’s 12 Test matches since the 2019 Ashes and lost his Test central contract in September but is back for the two-match series in Sri Lanka. Surrey batsman Rory Burns misses the tour as his wife is expecting their first child in January. Spin is likely to be a key part of the series, with Galle notorious for its turn, and England have included Dom Bess, Jack Leach and Moeen Ali as their three frontline slow bowlers.

Another three, Mason Crane, Matt Parkinson and Amar Virdi, are among the reserves. Adil Rashid is once again notable by his absence. The leg-spinner was in fine form during the recent Twenty20 whitewash over South Africa and both national selector Ed Smith and head coach Chris Silverwood have spoken about the possibility of bringing him back into the five-day fold. Seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad are both included, despite the unresponsive pitches they experienced when England last visited in 2018. Alongside them, Mark Wood and Olly Stone are on hand to provide 90-miles-per-hour (145 kilometres-per-hour) pace. Ollie Pope, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, will join the squad and continue his rehabilitation in preparation for the four-match Test series against India.

The touring party, including seven travelling reserves, departs for Sri Lanka on January 2 and will play two Test matches behind closed doors at Galle International Cricket Stadium, starting on January 14 and January 22.

England Test squad: Joe Root (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood

Reserves: James Bracey, Mason Crane, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Robinson, Amar Virdi

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