Ballance recalled, Stokes dropped for World Cup
Gary Ballance is the chief beneficiary of Alastair Cook's sacking as one-day captain after he was named in England's World Cup squad. Ben Stokes and Harry Gurney have also been omitted from the team that was recently in Sri Lanka with James Anderson and Stuart Broad returning from injury.
The news of the change of captaincy, with Eoin Morgan replacing Cook, had been confirmed earlier on Saturday morning. Aside from Cook, the most significant omission is that of Stokes who, less than a year ago, emerged from the dreadful tour of Australia as one of the few players with any credit.
However, since then he has cut a forlorn figure at international level, his frustration never more apparent than when he broke his hand punching a locker on the tour of West Indies. In his three matches on the recent tour of Sri Lanka, he sent down eight overs for 85 alongside scores of 16 and 6.
"I've spoken to Ben at length and he was very disappointed as you can imagine," James Whitaker, the national selector, told Sky Sports. "It's always going to tricky as a new player in a squad establishing yourself. There will be different positions you have to try and establish yourself in but he was obviously disappointed. We are looking for consistency and we are sure that will arrive with Ben. We have always understood his talent. He's definitely a player for the future and will form a core part of our group in the future."
Ballance returns to the one-day side having been omitted for the tour of Sri Lanka after a summer where he was in and out of the one-day side. He played all five matches at home against Sri Lanka, but only once against India following a prolific Test season during which he established himself as England's No. 3. He has a top score of 79 in his 12 ODIs, which was made in his second match against Australia at the MCG.
"Gary has been identified as a world-class player in pretty much all forms of the game for the future," Whitaker said. "He's had his introduction to one-day cricket in Australia and played briefly this summer. We've been earmarking him as a squad player and a first choice player for some months.
"He missed out in Sri Lanka but kept practicing and performing well for the Performance Programme and he's got a great future. We've seen his remarkable achievements in the Test series and believe he is a good option for the balance of the team."
Ian Bell and Alex Hales are likely to vie for the second opening spot alongside Moeen Ali, with Ballance also added to the mix when considering who should bat at three.
The bowling attack is strengthened by the return of James Anderson and Stuart Broad who have recovered from the respective knee injuries. The pair have been on a fast bowling camp in South Africa with the performance squad and Whitaker said both had been signed off medically. Gurney, the left-armer, who struggled in Sri Lanka to prove himself the death bowler England were seeking, pays the price for the return of the senior fast-bowling pair.
"Until they get on the park and bowl there is a bit of an unknown but we are confident with their history and experience that they are capable of re-emerging into the team," Whitaker said. "A lot of fast bowlers have to manage injuries and niggles."
Of the other players whose places were up for debate, Bell has retained his position as one of the senior batsman although it remains to be seen if he finds a spot in the top order even in the absence of Cook. Chris Jordan joins Chris Woakes as the bowling allrounders and the pair could be competing for one spot in the final XI.
"We have had to make some difficult decisions to get to our final squad but firmly believe that the 15 players selected offer the very best chance of success at the World Cup," Whitaker said.