Sri Lanka in England 2016 May 12, 2016

Vince and Ball earn England Test calls

The Hampshire batsman James Vince and Nottinghamshire seamer Jake Ball have been handed their maiden Test call-ups for England's opening match of the season against Sri Lanka at Headingley.

Nick Compton has been retained at No. 3 despite a slow start to the season for Middlesex while Alex Hales will remain Alastair Cook's opening partner.

Vince is set to slot in at No. 5 following James Taylor's enforced retirement with a heart condition. He had been widely tipped for a place in the squad, with the debate between whether it would be at first-wicket down or in the middle order.

"It's something I've been aiming for since I was a little kid really," Vince said. "Definitely when I was growing up, playing for England in a Test was still the number one. "I've had the experience of the T20s in Dubai against Pakistan, when it was a good feeling being able to contribute to the team. Being in the World T20 squad was a great experience as well although obviously I would have liked to have played more of a part.

"Since then I've turned my attention to Hampshire and trying to have a good start to the season. It's only the last week when I started to notice stuff in the press. But to get the call, it took a while to sink in."

He has started the season solidly for Hampshire with 275 runs at 39.28 including a century against a strong Yorkshire attack at Headingley which was watched by national selector James Whitaker. But he has also impressed the England management when around the one-day and T20 squads. He was Man of the Series in the T20s against Pakistan late last year.

Ball, meanwhile, has yet to be capped at any level by England and has been rewarded for being the stand-out pace bowler in early season with 19 wickets at 21.15. He will provide the extra pace-bowling option and while unlikely to make the final XI may yet have a chance of forcing his way past Steven Finn, who missed the final Test in South Africa due to injury, into the team.

He has enjoyed a rapid rise after a solid 2015 season and strong Lions programme in the winter. He pushes out Chris Woakes, who played in England's previous Test at Centurion, while injuries to Mark Wood and Mark Footitt have also opened up the opportunity.

Most debate around the squad centred on who would join Cook in the top three. In the end, it will be the same names who played in South Africa. Both Hales and Compton, however, will need strong series against Sri Lanka to be assured of retaining their places when Pakistan arrive.

Hales has been the more convincing of the duo this season following his extended break, having spent useful time in the middle against Yorkshire and Middlesex. Compton has managed just 100 runs at 20.00 in four matches but it was only four Tests ago, in Durban, that he enjoyed an excellent outing to help set-up England's victory.

Of Compton's 13 Tests only two have so far come at home, both against New Zealand in 2013, and it was his performance in the Headingley match of that series which persuaded the selectors to make a change for the Ashes that followed.

"Both Jake Ball and James Vince thoroughly deserve their opportunity having performed well with the England Lions and starting the season in good form with their respective counties," Whitaker said.

"Building on his success with the Lions in the winter, Jake has impressed with the ball and shown excellent control and skill in the opening matches of the County Championship. If selected, we are confident he will perform very well at international level.

"James has been a consistent performer for Hampshire and England Lions over the past few years. He is already well regarded by the England coaches in the short format and now has the opportunity to showcase his skills at Test level."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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