England bring back Stokes, Archer for first two India Tests

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London: 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.

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.