Patel and Tredwell in for Sri Lanka
England will take four spinners on tour to Sri Lanka next month after handing a first Test call-up to Samit Patel and giving a surprise recall to Kent offspinner James Tredwell. Eoin Morgan has paid the price for his struggles against Pakistan in the UAE and Patel will offer batting cover as well as a slow-bowling option with his left-arm spin.
Tredwell is the most unexpected selection in the 16-man squad for two Tests in Galle and Colombo starting on March 26. He played his one previous Test against Bangladesh, in Dhaka, in early 2010 where he took match figures of 6 for 181 and hasn't appeared for England since the World Cup quarter-final against Sri Lanka in Colombo last March. However, his presence means England have cover in both the off-spin and left-arm spin categories should either Graeme Swann or Monty Panesar suffer injury or illness.
Morgan's omission was largely expected after a horrid six weeks in the UAE where he has made 180 runs in 13 international innings across Test, one-day internationals and Twenty20s. He becomes the first England batsman to be dropped from the Test side - as opposed to retiring (Paul Collingwood) or being injured - since Ravi Bopara during the 2009 Ashes series.
It is Bopara who is likely to benefit most from Morgan's absence this time with a chance to resume his Test career after encouraging form in the one-day series against Pakistan. However, he isn't a certainty that he will get his chance with Patel also an option at No. 6 while Tim Bresnan could also be recalled at No. 7 with Matt Prior moving up one place if conditions demand five frontline bowlers.
"We have selected a squad that we feel will be able to make best use of the conditions we are likely to encounter in Sri Lanka," Geoff Miller, the national selector, said. "There is no doubt that this Test series will be a challenging one but it is exciting that players have an opportunity to demonstrate that they have learnt from the disappointment of the Pakistan Test series and can make further strides in developing the skills needed to succeed on the subcontinent."
Ian Bell, who averaged 8.50 in the three Tests against Pakistan, had enough credit in the bank while Kevin Pietersen was resurgent during the one-day and Twenty20 matches against Pakistan. The other members of the original UAE touring squad to miss out are Chris Tremlett, who is sidelined with a back injury, and Graham Onions. Steven Davies remains as the reserve wicketkeeper despite some thought that Jonny Bairstow may have squeezed into the party.
The squad will depart for Sri Lanka in two lots with an advanced group leaving on March 5 for a training camp under the guidance of Graham Gooch. Bell, Davies, Panesar, Patel, Tredwell and captain Andrew Strauss will fly out on March 5 before being joined by the remaining members on March 10. England have two warm-up matches before the first Test in Galle.
Squad Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel, Matt Prior, Steven Davies, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, James Tredwell, Monty Panesar
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo