Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali, Jamie Porter in England squad for first Test
Adil Rashid has been recalled to England's Test squad for the first time since the tour of India in December 2016, and there is a maiden Test call-up for the Essex seamer Jamie Porter, as England named a 13-man squad for the first Test against India at Edgbaston, starting on August 1.
The recall of Rashid is the most eye-catching - and controversial - pick in a line-up that also includes a return for Moeen Ali, who was dropped at the end of a torrid Ashes winter but who has rediscovered his confidence in a solid white-ball campaign against Australia and India, and who claimed 19 wickets at 23.00 in his first Test series against India in 2014.
Assuming Rashid plays at Edgbaston, potentially as a spin twin to Moeen given that England's summer heat-wave showing no sign of abating, this will be his first appearance in a home Test, having played each of his previous ten overseas, since making his debut against Pakistan in the UAE in 2015-16.
This is in spite of the fact that Rashid has not played red-ball cricket since signing a limited-overs contract with Yorkshire back in February. It is the second time this summer that Ed Smith, the new national selector, has made a Test selection on the strength of white-ball form, having successfully recalled Jos Buttler for the Pakistan series in May.
Unlike Rashid, however, Buttler had not officially made himself unavailable for red-ball cricket - he played for Lancashire in last week's Roses match at Old Trafford, and the fact that Rashid had declined to make himself available for that contest had been taken as an indication that he would not be selected.
Smith, however, believed that Rashid's form, and the unusual circumstances of this summer's marquee series, warranted an exemption. India's selectors have already responded to the likely conditions by calling up the left-arm wristspinner, Kuldeep Yadav, who tied England's batting in knots at various stages of the limited-overs campaign. And Rashid's own selection was effectively rubber-stamped by the ripping legbreak with which he bamboozled India's captain, Virat Kohli, in the decisive ODI at Headingley.
"Before the selection meeting, Adil had confirmed his availability to play Test cricket for England for whole of this summer and the upcoming winter tours to Sri Lanka and West Indies," Smith said. "Adil fully understands that if he wishes to be eligible for Test cricket in the 2019 season, he must have a county contract to play four-day cricket. Moving forward, England Test players must be committed to the county championship."
"Clearly, the one-off circumstances around Adil's return to the Test squad are unusual. However, the selection panel was unanimous in believing that Adil should be selected in England's squad."
Rashid admitted he had been surprised by the call. "They've selected me in the squad and I'll try my best," he told Sky Sports. "It was definitely a tough decision, and I was kind of surprised. To get back in the Test side you usually have to go back to your county and perform, and get wickets to be considered.
"But me and Ed Smith and a few others had a chat, and they were thinking whether I was available to do whatever the job the team wants, whether it's me being attacking or whatever, then I'd be in the squad. So I made that decision to be available."
That explanation, however, cut little ice with Yorkshire, who now face the prospect of losing their star legspinner for most of their remaining group matches for this year's Vitality Blast - precisely the contest on which his white-ball contract had been centred.
"We are pretty disappointed with both the ECB's and Adil's decision," Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire's director of cricket, said "and we will have to consider the implications as far as our plans for next year are concerned."
Mark Arthur, Yorkshire's chief executive, added: "We're very surprised that England have called Adil up after not playing red-ball cricket this season. Neither has he expressed a desire to do so. I hope that England know what they're doing to Adil, and the county game."
It is not a given that Rashid will be able to translate his white-ball form to Test cricket - without the onus on run-scoring, his variations may not prove to be as effective in the five-day game, and though he was England's leading wicket-taker in his last encounter with India, taking 23 wickets in five Tests in 2016-17, those came at an average of 37.43, and did little to prevent a 4-0 series loss.
For that reason, and also to help England's preparations for what promises to be a spin-heavy series, both of England's most recent spin debutants, Dom Bess and Jack Leach, will join the squad throughout their preparations for the Edgbaston Test. Bess, who was the man in possession after showing character in his maiden appearances against Pakistan, stepped in for his Somerset team-mate Leach, who broke his thumb in May, having made his own debut in New Zealand earlier this year.
"Jack Leach has had an exceptional run of bad luck which now leaves him short of bowling at the start of the series against India," Smith said. "Having broken his thumb before the first Test against Pakistan, Jack then suffered concussion on his return to county cricket. As a result, Jack has bowled only 37 overs in county or Lions cricket since first being injured. The selection panel felt it was too early for Jack to play in a Test match. Though he is not included in the XIII, Jack will join the team throughout preparations for the Test.
"The same applies to Dom Bess. Dom made an outstanding all-round contribution in his debut series against Pakistan and impressed everyone with his character and competitiveness. For different reasons, unfortunately Dom has also found opportunities scarce in championship cricket. Though not included in the XIII, he will also practice fully with the squad before the Test.
"Moeen Ali has taken his strong bowling form from England's ODI team into the county championship, where he picked up eight wickets in a fine display against Somerset this week. Moeen is recalled to the XIII having missed out on selection against Pakistan.
As for Porter, he has earned his first Test call-up on the strength of an impressive couple of seasons for both England Lions and Essex, whom he helped to their first County Championship title in 2017 after claiming a remarkable 75 wickets. He comes in ahead of Chris Woakes, whose recent thigh and knee injuries have limited his opportunities to regain full match fitness.
"Jamie Porter has been the outstanding seam bowler in the county championship over the past three seasons," said Smith. "He also impressed for the Lions v India A last week. With his resilience and appetite for wicket-taking, Jamie fully deserves his elevation to the England Test squad. Sam Curran, also full of form and confidence in Lions and county cricket, retains his place in the squad after his promising debut at Emerald Headingley.
"The selection panel felt that Chris Woakes needed a little more time to regain full form. We are keen to avoid rushing him back from injury too soon. Chris will combine playing for Warwickshire in T20s alongside building up red ball fitness and workload with the England coaches.