Hales, Ansari in England Test squad
LONDON. — England included the uncapped pair of opening batsman Alex Hales and off-spinning all-rounder Zafar Ansari in a 16-man Test cricket squad announced yesterday for their upcoming three-match series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
Hales, who has played white-ball cricket for England, was brought into the Test squad after Adam Lyth was dropped. Despite impressing for county champions Yorkshire and scoring a hundred in his second Test against New Zealand at his Headingley home ground, Lyth averaged just 12.77 after playing in all five matches of England’s 3-2 Ashes series win.
Now Hales, who struggled for runs during England’s recent 3-2 one-day series loss at home to world champions Australia, will compete with Moeen Ali to fill the vacant spot alongside Test captain Alastair Cook at the top of the order.
Elsewhere in the batting James Taylor has been recalled to Test duty after playing his only two matches in the five-day format against South Africa in 2012.
Taylor’s inclusion meant there was no place in the Test squad for Gary Ballance, dropped two games into the Ashes.
Pace-bowling all-rounder Ben Stokes has been included in the Test squad but rested from both the one-day and Twenty20 parties after an ever-present campaign in all three international formats during the English season.
England’s backroom staff, headed up by Australian coach Trevor Bayliss, has two recruits in former one-day skipper Paul Collingwood and recently retired Sri Lanka batting great Mahela Jayawardene, with both men taking consultancy roles.
Jayawardene will work with the Test batsmen until the end of the first Test against Pakistan, while Collingwood, previously involved as a part-time England coach, will assist the limited-overs group in the UAE, where pitches are renowned for aiding spin.
Collingwood remains the only England captain to have lifted a major international limited overs trophy after leading the side to glory at the 2010 World Twenty20 in the Caribbean.
England national selector James Whitaker, commenting on the make-up of the various squads, said: “The challenge we face against Pakistan will be very different and the composition of our squads reflects the conditions we expect to encounter in the UAE.
“Zafar Ansari’s potential excites us and he will provide strong competition for Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali in the Test squad after enjoying an excellent domestic season with both bat and ball for Surrey.
“Alex Hales has scored heavily for Nottinghamshire in first-class cricket this season, has shown he can play match-winning innings for England in white-ball cricket and fully deserves an opportunity to compete for a place at the top of the order in our Test side.”
As for resting Stokes from the limited overs section of the tour, Whitaker added: “This decision reflects a desire to manage his workload across a busy winter period in all three formats of the game.
“He will come back into contention for the white-ball format when we consider the make-up of our squads for the tour of South Africa later in the year.”
England will hope they can learn from Jayawardene’s vast knowledge of how to play in sub-continental conditions, with the 38-year-old bowing out of international cricket in August having scored 11 814 runs in 149 Tests.
Collingwood, who worked with Scotland at this year’s 50-over World Cup, has been forging a growing reputation as a coach even though he is still captaining first-class county Durham.
England arrive in the UAE on September 30 before facing Pakistan in three Tests, four one-day internationals and three Twenty20s. — AFP.