Recently, we saw the announcement of the England Test side to tour South Africa over the Christmas and New Year period. This four match series is highly anticipated for both sides. There are a few changes that have been made to the England side that lost to Pakistan in the UAE.
Firstly, and probably most surprisingly, is the exclusion of Ian Bell. The England stalwart has been dropped after having a torrid time batting in recent series against the West Indies, New Zealand and Australia. Despite a few innings of resistance in the UAE, the runs just didn’t flow as well as he’d hoped, and as a result he has been dropped. Moeen Ali will move back down the order, with Alex Hales to open the batting alongside Cook. his will England a very important left and right handed opening partnership, which can be tricky to deal with at the start of an innings. After an impressive county season for county championship runners up Middlesex, Nick Compton earns a deserved recall to the England side.
Batsman Gary Ballance returns to the England set-up after exclusion midway through the most recent Ashes series. I agree with this call, as he returned to good form playing county cricket. This same process may help Ian Bell regain his place, although no county matches will take place until March. James Taylor, Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler all retain their places, the latter two serving as the wicket keepers for this tour.
Chris Jordan of Sussex and Chris Woakes (Warwickshire) have been recalled to give Ben Stokes competition as all-rounders. The main competition will come from Jordan as he has the slight edge in bowling. However, Stokes is by far the better batsman.
Adil Rashid has also been sent back to Yorkshire, so England will take only the two spinners (3 if you count Joe Root). Moeen Ali, who will likely bat again at 8, will have creative freedom for explosive batting at the tail end of the innings, whilst Samit Patel retains his place as backup spinner.
Unsurprisingly, James Anderson and Stuart Broad have been selected. However, with Mark Wood injured, there is a spot for someone to put their hand up. Jordan and Woakes could both fulfil this role, or it could be Mark Footitt who stakes a claim for that spot, a latecomer to the international scene aged 29.
The first test starts on Boxing Day.
The England squad touring South Africa in full:
Alastair Cook (Essex, capt), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire, wk), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Jos Buttler (Lancashire, wk), Nick Compton (Middlesex), Mark Footitt (Surrey), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Samit Patel (Nottinghamshire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), James Taylor (Nottinghamshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire).