Jos Buttler has been recalled to England’s squad for the first Test against Pakistan at Lord’s next week while uncapped Somerset off-spinner Dom Bess has also been called-up in the first squad selected by new National Selector, Ed Smith. There is no place for Hampshire’s batsman James Vince nor all-rounder Moeen Ali but opener Mark Stoneman keeps his place.
Full Squad: Mark Stoneman, Alastair Cook, Joe Root (c), Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Dom Bess, Mark Wood
Smith announced a 12-man squad at Lord’s on Wednesday which was selected in conjunction with fellow selectors Angus Fraser and Mick Newell who have remained on hand to assist Smith until he appoints a full-time England selector as part of the new three-person panel. Head coach Trevor Bayliss will be part of that and so had an input, as did captain Joe Root.
Buttler’s return to Test duty is somewhat surprising. He has played just eight first-class matches since the start of 2016 and he is currently playing for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, meaning he will have little time to acclimatise to red-ball cricket in time for the start of the match at Lord’s. Nor has Buttler’s Test career, currently standing at 18 matches with an average of 31.36, yet reached the same heights as his limited-overs exploits where is regarded as one of the best players in the world.
He last played a Test for England on the tour to India in 2016 and was overlooked, admittedly under the previous selection panel chaired by James Whitaker, for the Ashes tour and the Test trip to New Zealand this winter. Yet Smith thinks that Buttler, a player capable of such brilliance with the white ball as he has showed of late for the Royals with consecutive scores of 94 not out, 95 not out, 82, 51 and 67, has something to offer at Test level.
“Jos Buttler is an outstanding talent, who is already a central part of England’s white ball teams,” said Smith. “The selection panel feels that this is the perfect moment to reintroduce Jos to Test cricket, where he has already enjoyed some success, including a stint playing as a specialist batsman at number seven. Jos is playing with great confidence and flair, and he will bring unique qualities to the Test team.”
Bess’s inclusion owes much to the injury to his Somerset teammate Jack Leach, who sustained a broken left thumb during the county’s recent match against Hampshire. After making his debut in Chirstchurch during England’s series against New Zealand, Leach would have been expected to keep his place had he been fit but his injury gives Bess an opportunity, although it remains to be seen whether he makes the final XI. The 20 year-old has taken 63 wickets in first-class cricket at an average of 22.49.
Picking Bess, who toured with England Lions this winter, is a bold move by Smith. They could have selected Moeen, a veteran of 50 Test matches and currently playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL, as the spin bowling option in the squad. It would have been the safe choice but Smith has opted instead to blood Bess, a frontline spinner, rather than go back to Moeen who still regards himself as a batsman who bowls. Moeen’s poor winter with both bat and ball wouldn’t have helped his cause either.
“Dom Bess has made an excellent start to his first-class career,” said Smith. “He has impressed everyone with his performances for Somerset and when he has been given opportunities with England representative teams. With Jack Leach missing out due to injury, the selection panel wanted to invest opportunity in a young spin bowler. Dom’s strong form, character and all-round abilities presented a compelling case for selection.”
Despite an unbeaten double hundred for Hampshire against Somerset earlier this week, Vince has been left out of the squad after failing to nail down his place during the winter. Although he showed glimpses of what he can do, particularly in making 83 in the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, an average of 24.90 from 13 Tests ultimately counted against him.
Mark Stoneman may count himself fortunate to have kept his place after a similarly inconsistent winter in Australia and New Zealand. Stoneman’s top score was 60 in the second Test against New Zealand and he has not passed 30 for Surrey in seven innings this summer. Despite that, the selectors have decided to stick with him, at least for now, despite an average of just 30.17 from ten Test matches.
The rest of the squad is as expected. James Anderson and Stuart Broad will lead the attack while Mark Wood and Chris Woakes will fight it out for the third seam bowling spot. Somerset seamer Craig Overton and Surrey pacer Tom Curran, both of whom made their Test debuts this winter, have been overlooked.
England also announced that Malan and Curran have been awarded incremental contracts after accumulating enough international appearances during the 2017/18 contract year.