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Compton, Ballance return to England squad for South Africa Tests

Compton, Ballance return to England squad for South Africa Tests
Is the writing on the wall for Ian Bell?
©REUTERS / Action Images

The England selectors have announced a 16-man Test squad for the tour of South Africa, which features the return of Gary Ballance and Nick Compton.

Fast bowler Mark Footitt has also been included in the squad while senior middle-order batsman Ian Bell has been dropped owing to a poor run of form.

Compton, who made his Test debut in 2012 against India in Ahmedabad, last played a Test match in May 2013 against Sri Lanka in Leeds.

After averaging just 31.93 from nine Test matches, Compton was dropped as England’s search for a long-term opening combination continued.

However, none of the players who replaced Compton at the top of the order - Joe Root, Michael Carberry, Sam Robson, Jonathan Trott or Adam Lyth - were able to cement their position with consistent performances. 

Ballance was dropped midway during the 2015 Ashes after a string of poor scores, despite averaging 47.76 in Test cricket.

After a successful showing in domestic cricket for Yorkshire, Ballance has now been drafted back into the side at the expense of Bell.

England Test squad for South Africa tour:

Alastair Cook (captain), 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

The 33-year-old right hander has endured a tough time in 2015, averaging just 25.95 from the 13 Test matches, prompting the selectors to drop him from the squad.

The selectors have also included Alex Hales in the squad which gives the England team management ample choice for the top order.

England national selector, James Whitaker, believes that Bell will benefit from some time away from the spotlight of international cricket.

"Ian Bell has been an outstanding player for many years and undoubtedly still has plenty to offer England in the future," he said.

"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."

As reported earlier, fast bowler Mark Wood has been left out of the squad as he is slated to undergo ankle surgery next week.

Even though Steven Finn hoped to make it to the tour, the England selectors have decided against rushing him back to the rigours of playing international cricket.

Leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who has had a mixed series in the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan, has been left out of the squad.

"Adil Rashid showed plenty of promise in the UAE but the conditions in South Africa make the likelihood of playing two spinners extremely remote," Whitaker explained.

"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."

Senior bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad will lead a pace attack also consisting of Footitt, Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes.

All-rounders included for the tour are Moeen Ali, Samit Patel and Ben Stokes, while Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow are the wicket-keepers.

Whitaker is aware that playing the number one ranked Test team in their own backyard is a tough challenge and has wished the players the best for the tour.

"Playing the number one 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.

"On behalf of the selectors I would like to wish Alastair (Cook) and Trevor (Bayliss) all the very best for the tour."

The four-match contest against South Africa will get underway with the Boxing Day Test match on 26th December in Durban.

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