England name squad for first Test against the West Indies
Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow were both left out of England's 13-man squad announced Saturday for next week's first Test against the West Indies, with neither experienced player even among a list of nine reserves.
Off-spinner Moeen had made himself available for Test cricket again after taking a break from the red-ball game.
But although Moeen was included in England's 30-strong training squad, England went with incumbent off-spinner Dom Bess, who impressed during a victorious tour of South Africa, as their specialist slow bowler for the behind closed doors series-opener at Southampton starting on July 8.
It was a similar story with wicketkeeper-batsman Bairstow, who like Moeen may be set for more of a white-ball role as England try to cram in a full international fixture despite losing several months of their home season to the global pandemic.
Bairstow's fate for this match was effectively sealed when fellow wicket-keeper and World Cup winner Jos Buttler, the current Test gloveman, was named as vice-captain to Ben Stokes after it was confirmed regular skipper Joe Root would miss the first Test to attend the birth of his second child.
And there was no place for Bairstow among the reserves, with Ben Foakes the back-up wicketkeeper.
Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Joe Denly are set to provide England with their top four in Root's absence as Stokes, the longtime vice-captain, leads the side for the first time.
Denly, however, averages a modest 30 in his 14 Tests to date and he may need a significant score at Hampshire's headquarters if he is to keep his place, with Root set to return for the final two matches of the series at Old Trafford.
Veteran new-ball bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad are among a group of five seamers in the 13, along with Barbados-born Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes.
But only three are likely to play given Stokes is himself a seam-bowling all-rounder.
Uncapped batsman Dan Lawrence is among a standby list that also includes Surrey left-arm paceman Sam Curran, who tested negative for the virus after an illness on Wednesday ruled him out of the last two days of England's lone three-day intra-squad warm-up match at Southampton this week.
All-rounder Ben Stokes is poised to become the England men's Test cricket team's 81st captain following confirmation of his stepping in for Joe Root, who left the secure 'bubble' and headed to Sheffield to be with his wife Carrie for the birth of their second child.
Root will self-isolate for seven days upon returning before taking his place in the squad ahead of the second Test at Emirates Old Trafford on July 16.
Next week's Test will be a landmark occasion given it is set to mark the return of international cricket from lockdown.
Ben Stokes (Durham, capt), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jofra Archer (Sussex), Dominic Bess (Somerset), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Rory Burns (Surrey), Jos Buttler (Lancashire, wkt), Zak Crawley (Kent), Joe Denly (Kent), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Dom Sibley (Warwickshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham)
Aside from the 13-man squad, nine reserve players will stay on at the Ageas Bowl, including:
James Bracey (Gloucestershire), Sam Curran (Surrey), Ben Foakes (Surrey), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Jack Leach (Somerset), Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire), Craig Overton (Somerset), Ollie Robinson (Sussex), Olly Stone (Warwickshire)
England v West Indies fixtures
Jul 08-12: 1st Test, Ageas Bowl, Southampton
Jul 16-20: 2nd Test, Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester
Jul 24-28: 3rd Test, Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester
Feature image courtesy: AFP / David Gray