After eight Test matches, during which a rest-and-rotation policy has weakened England’s Test team, a full-strength squad, barring injuries, has been announced for the opening two Tests against India. It brings a return for Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Sam Curran, all of whom missed the New Zealand series after returning from the Indian Premier League.
A home Test series against India is a marquee event. With no more international T20 cricket until the winter months, and with England’s World T20 squad now essentially settled in Eoin Morgan’s mind, Joe Root will be able to call upon his first-choice team at last, with the exception of Jofra Archer (elbow) and Chris Woakes (bruised heel). Both may yet play some part in the series.
The only other injury concern is Ollie Pope, who tore his thigh playing for Surrey in the Vitality Blast, and who remains touch and go for the first Test at Trent Bridge starting a week on Wednesday. After a difficult time in India, where he struggled on some spin-friendly surfaces, Pope will be hoping to make his mark against India’s bowlers in what are sure to be different conditions.
Bairstow was another player who struggled in the heat and dust of India, but who is recalled not only as a back-up specialist batsman but as a back-up wicketkeeper-batsman for Buttler.
It means no place for Gloucestershire’s James Bracey, who endured a torrid two matches against New Zealand and who looked a long way short of Test class, with bat and gloves.
Ollie Robinson, the Sussex seamer, returns after a Test debut against New Zealand at Lord’s that was memorable for different reasons. He bowled superbly, taking seven wickets, but was then held to account when details of long-distant discriminatory tweets were published, resulting in a shame-faced apology at the end of the match, after which he took some time out.
The Cricket Discipline Commission duly handed down a ban of eight matches, three of which he had already served and five of which were suspended, and fined him £3,200.
He has since had action with Sussex and will return to the England team a chastened and wiser man, but one whose brief experience of Test cricket against the world champions will have given him confidence for what lies ahead.
The best news for Root is the return of his vice-captain Stokes from the broken finger suffered in the IPL. England are twice the Test team with Stokes in it and a century from Haseeb Hameed for the County Select XI against India at Chester-le-Street will have further heartened Root.
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)
First Test 4-8 August 2021, Trent Bridge, Nottingham
Second Test 12-16 August 2021, Lord’s, London
Third Test 25-29 August 2021, Emerald Headingley, Leeds
Fourth Test 2-6 September 2021, Kia Oval, London
Fifth Test 10-14 September, Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester