England have recalled batsman Gary Ballance for the first test against South Africa at Lord’s on Thursday with the hosts also naming Middlesex pace bowler Toby Roland-Jones as the only uncapped player in the squad.
Ballance was dropped following a dismal showing during England’s two-test series against Bangladesh in October but got back on the selectors’ radar after averaging 101 for Yorkshire in the County Championship this season.
“Gary Ballance could play his first test since October,” national selector James Whitaker said in a statement when announcing the side on Sunday.
“He has been in fantastic touch with the bat in the Championship averaging over 100. He deserves to be included and we feel that he will add maturity and experience to our middle-order.”
Ballance would bat at number three in Joe Root’s first series as captain, with Root, who took over as skipper from Alastair Cook, dropping to his favoured number four position, British media reported.
“There is great excitement around the first test of the summer and with the start of a new era under the captaincy of Joe Root this is an exciting time for English cricket,” Whitaker added.
Durham seamer Mark Wood is also back in the side for the first time since 2015, when injury disrupted his initial call-up.
Injuries to Jake Ball and Chris Woakes could see Roland-Jones make his international test debut at his home ground, while spinner Liam Dawson has been retained after an impressive debut against India in Chennai, leaving no room for Adil Rashid.
“Toby Roland-Jones is a player we have been monitoring for quite some time and deserves his chance… He came close last year when he was named in the Test squad against Pakistan in July,” Whitaker added.
“Toby has been in good form this campaign and his ability to seam the ball along with the fact that he can score useful runs down the order gives us a number of options.”
Ballance’s recall means Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed also misses out, despite shining during the first three tests in India last year.
Since returning from the hand injury that ruled him out of the fourth test of that series, Hameed has struggled for runs in the County Championship.
England and South Africa are playing a four-match series with the final test beginning at Old Trafford on Aug. 4.