Fast bowler James Anderson, wicketkeeper-batsman Jonny Bairstow and pacer Mark Wood have all made a return to the 17-member strong England squad for the four-match Test series against South Africa, beginning on Boxing Dat at SuperSport Park, Centurion.
While Anderson has made a comeback to the national squad after sustaining a right calf tear during the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston in August, Bairstow has returned after missing out on selection for the recently-concluded two-Test series in New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Wood is currently recovering from a left knee injury and side strain which he sustained during the final of the 2019 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup against New Zealand in July.
Reflecting on the national squad, national selector Ed Smith said that as a result of Anderson and Wood's return, Lancashire seamer Saqib Mahmood has been left out of the England squad for the Test tour of New Zealand.
“With James Anderson and Mark Wood returning to the squad, Saqib Mahmood is the unfortunate player to miss out.It is not predicted that Mark (Wood) will be available for selection for the earliest matches. However, he will travel with the team and continue his rehab work with the medical staff on tour. There is no exact date given for his return, but the medical team is working towards him becoming fully available for selection during the tour," the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) official website quoted Smith as saying.
"With that in mind, and given the extended period that James and Mark have had on the sidelines due to injury, it was sensible to have a 17-man squad. Moeen Ali, who asked to take a break from Test cricket last summer, remains unavailable for Test selection," he added.
The upcoming Test series between England and South Africa will be a part of the ICC World Test Championship and will be the first series in the competition which the Joe Root-led side will play away from home.
The top two sides at the end of the two-year cycle will compete in the ICC World Test Championship Final to be held in England in June 2021.
The full England squad is as follows:
Joe Root (captain), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jack Leach, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Dominic Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood