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England recall Moeen Ali but rest Ben Stokes & Jofra Archer for Sri Lanka Tests

Moeen Ali

England have recalled Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow but rested all-rounder Ben Stokes and paceman Jofra Archer for the two Tests in Sri Lanka next month.

All-rounder Moeen, 33, has not played a Test since taking a break from cricket in 2019, while keeper-batsman Bairstow, 31, was dropped a year ago.

Uncapped Essex batsman Dan Lawrence is included, with Rory Burns absent as his wife is expecting their first child.

England play two Tests, both in Galle, starting on 14 and 22 January.

The tour was due to take place in March this year but was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, who has not played a Test for almost two years, also features in a 16-man squad that includes three spinners in Moeen, Dom Bess and Jack Leach.

Stokes and Archer will return for the four-Test series in India starting in February.

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England squad: Joe Root (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler (wk), Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes (wk), Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Reserves: James Bracey (wk), Mason Crane, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Robinson, Amar Virdi.

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Familiar faces return as ‘inventive’ Lawrence gets his chance

Off-spinner Moeen, who averages 28.97 with the bat and 36.59 with the ball in 60 Tests, was dropped during the 2019 Ashes series against Australia before taking “a short break”.

He returned to England’s limited-overs teams in February 2020, when he said he “finally feels back”, and was part of the training group for the Test series at home to West Indies this summer.

Moeen was England’s joint-leading wicket-taker in the 3-0 series win in Sri Lanka in 2018, with 18 at 24.50 apiece.

Bairstow, who averages 37.74 from 70 Tests, was dropped during the tour of South Africa last winter after passing 50 once in 16 innings.

In September he lost his Test central contract for 2020-21, but this month pulled out of his Big Bash League (BBL) contract with Melbourne Stars in the expectation of being recalled by England.

“With his pedigree as a player of a spin in Asia and some gaps in the squad, it felt like the perfect moment to reintroduce Jonny to the group,” said national selector Ed Smith.

Lawrence, 23, averages 37.96 in first-class cricket and was among the England reserves this summer.

Smith said: “Dan Lawrence is one of those players who is an unusual player but has that quality about him. He has his own style, real confidence at the crease and he’s inventive.”

Currently playing for Brisbane Heat in the BBL, Lawrence will leave early to join the England squad.

England plan to rest more players

Stokes took a period of compassionate leave between August and October to be with his ill father, Ged, who died in New Zealand on Tuesday.

He missed the end of England’s summer and the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL), returning to international cricket in the Twenty20 series in South Africa last month.

Archer has been rested after spending significant time in bio-secure bubbles during England’s summer, the IPL and the tour of South Africa that was abandoned earlier this week.

England said they will “provide a block of rest for all multi-format players at various points over the winter period”.

Buttler is set to keep wicket in Sri Lanka, but Smith said: “There will be opportunity for Ben Foakes at some point this winter. Jos Buttler is certain to have a rest at some point and that will open up some opportunities elsewhere.”

The squad fly to Sri Lanka on 2 January. During their quarantine in Hambantota, they will be able to train from 5-9 January.

Batsman Ollie Pope, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, will join the squad in Sri Lanka and continue his rehab in preparation for the India tour.

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