LONDON: Batsman Gary Ballance has been given a chance to revive his England Test career after being named in the squad for next Thursday’s first Test against South Africa.
The Zimbabwe-born 27-year-old has battled his way back into contention with a superb season for Yorkshire in the County Championship after being dropped following a torrid series against Bangladesh last October.
“Gary Ballance could play his first Test since October,” said England national selector James Whitaker.
“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’s county team-mate Joe Root will lead the side for the first time since replacing Alastair Cook as skipper in February, although the Essex opener retains his place in the squad.
Senior bowler Stuart Broad was included after shaking off a heel problem, while uncapped Middlesex seamer Toby Roland-Jones could make his Test debut at his home ground with Chris Woakes and Jake Ball ruled out through injury.
Roland-Jones, 29, made his One-day International debut last month at Lord’s against Ireland and is joined by Mark Wood, who earns a recall after almost a two-year hiatus.
“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,” said Whitaker.
“Toby Roland-Jones is a player we have been monitoring for quite some time and deserves his chance after a strong couple of seasons with Middlesex in red ball cricket.
“He came close last year when he was named in the Test squad against Pakistan in July.
“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.”
Joe Root (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Liam Dawson, Keaton Jennings, Toby Roland-Jones, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood.