Stokes, Archer return to England team for first two Tests against India


NEW DELHI: Explosive all-rounder Ben Stokes and pacer Jofra Archer on Thursday returned to a 16-member England squad named for the first two Tests of the upcoming four-match series against India.

The England selectors also named six travelling reserves for the first and second matches, to be held at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai from February 5.

Both Stokes and Archer missed the ongoing two-match Test series in Sri Lanka as part of England's policy to rest their all-format players, while Rory Burns was at home for the birth of his first child.

The team will continue to be led by Joe Root.

Surrey's Ollie Pope will travel to India and will be added to the squad when passed fit. Pope is recovering from a shoulder injury sustained in September during the Test series against Pakistan.

All-rounder Moeen Ali, who was the only cricketer to return COVID-19 positive on arrival in Sri Lanka, has fully recovered and was included in the team.

The national selectors have provided rest to Jonathan Bairstow, Sam Curran and Mark Wood. The three players, who are currently in Sri Lanka, were on Thursday named in the playing XI for the second Test against the islanders but will head home after that.

"This is consistent with the selection policy of finding a block of rest for all multi-format players at some point during post-Christmas winter schedule," the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said in a release.

In Wood's absence, Olly Stone has been retained in the squad to provide captain Root with a second genuine pace option after Archer.

With Archer and Stokes returning, and subject to fitness of the rest of the squad, Somerset's Craig Overton will return home after the Sri Lanka series.

The fast bowling department will be spearheaded by veteran James Anderson in the company of his seasoned teammate Stuart Broad, Archer and Chris Woakes.

English players travelling from Sri Lanka will fly to Chennai on a charter flight after the conclusion of the second Test in Galle.

After Chennai, the action will shift to Ahmedabad's Motera, currently the largest cricket stadium in the world with a capacity of 110,000. The venue will host India's second day-night Test at home after the country's first-ever pink-ball outing in Kolkata.

During their stay in India, England are scheduled to play 4 Tests, 5 T20Is and 3 ODIs against the hosts.

Squad for first two Tests: Joe Root, Jofra Archer, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes. (PTI)