• England announce squad for SA tour

    England have dropped batsman Ian Bell for their tour of South Africa at the end of the year.

    England selectors announced a 16-man squad on Thursday for next month’s four Test series against South Africa. The squad will play two three-day games ahead of the first Test in Durban starting on 26 December.

    Batsmen Nick Compton and Gary Ballance have been recalled to the squad while Bell misses out on selection.

    ‘I’m absolutely gutted not to be selected for the tour to SA,’ Bell tweeted on Thursday. ‘I certainly feel I could have contributed out there and have been working tirelessly to get into the best possible condition for the tour. I’m going to enjoy a winter break with my family for the first time in 11 years and come back determined to win my place back. Wishing all the guys selected the best of luck.’

    Compton, who has nine Test caps, last played for England in May 2013. Yorkshire batsman Ballance has played 15 Tests since making his debut against Australia in 2014 and was last involved during the Ashes series earlier this year.

    Two players uncapped at Test level have been included in the squad; left arm seamer Mark Footitt who has recently moved from Derbyshire to Surrey, and Nottinghamshire batsman Alex Hales who was in the recent Test squad that faced Pakistan.

    The squad includes three players who were involved in England’s last tour of South Africa in 2009-10: Alastair Cook, James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

    Injuries to pace bowlers Mark Wood (left ankle) and Steven Finn (left foot) mean they are both unavailable for selection. Wood will undergo ankle surgery next week and Finn will continue his recovery from a bone stress injury. Further details on their rehabilitation and back to bowling programmes will be provided in due course.

    National selector James Whitaker said: ‘Playing the No 1 ranked Test side in the world in their home conditions will be a really exciting challenge for this squad and one I’m sure these players will relish.

    ‘Ian Bell has been an outstanding player for many years and undoubtedly still has plenty to offer England in the future. It was clearly a difficult decision but he has struggled for runs in recent series and we felt that it was the right time for him to take a break and spend time working on his game out of the spotlight.

    ‘The inclusion of Nick Compton and Gary Ballance alongside Alex Hales, Joe Root and James Taylor gives Trevor Bayliss and Alastair Cook plenty of options in the top order. Adil Rashid showed plenty of promise in the UAE but the conditions in South Africa make the likelihood of playing two spinners extremely remote.

    ‘Although he would have been selected as a backup spinner we feel there is an excellent opportunity for him to spend some time developing his white-ball skills in the lead-up to the ICC World T20 in March. It is likely that Adil will travel to Australia to play for a Big Bash franchise.’

    England Test Squad: Alastair Cook (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Nick Compton, Mark Footitt, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Samit Patel, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Taylor, Chris Woakes.

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