Ian Bell faces the end of his England career after being dropped for the Test series against South Africa. Nick Compton and Gary Ballance have earned recalls while the uncapped left-arm quick Mark Footitt has been included after injuries to Mark Wood and Steven Finn.
Samit Patel, who was called in as a replacement for Zafar Ansari for the Test series against Pakistan, has been retained while Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan are both in the 16-man squad but Liam Plunkett has not been able to find a spot despite being in the squad for the Pakistan series. Wood will undergo ankle surgery next week.
Adil Rashid, who played the three Tests against Pakistan, has been omitted with the selectors feeling that he would be surplus to requirements on the pitches in South Africa. Instead he is expected to get a Big Bash deal in Australia, with the Adelaide Strikers, coached by Yorkshire's Jason Gillespie, one of his likelier destinations. Moeen Ali is likely to slip back down the order to No. 8 after his failed try at opening in the UAE.
Alex Hales remains favourite to open alongside Alastair Cook in the Boxing Day Test in Durban, but that position could yet go to Compton to revive the partnership which was the first combination used after Andrew Strauss retired. The Cook-Compton alliance remains the most successful of the seven pairings used by England since Strauss, averaging 57.93 in 17 innings together with three century stands. Otherwise, Compton will vie with Ballance for the No. 3 berth vacated by Bell.
Bell tweeted that he was "absolutely gutted" to miss out on selection but staved off thoughts of retirement, saying he was "determined to win my place back".
I'm absolutely gutted not to be selected for the tour to SA. I certainly feel I could have contributed out there & have been working...— Ian Bell (@Ian_Bell) November 19, 2015
..tirelessly 2 get into the best possible condition for the tour. I'm going2enjoy a winter break with my family for the 1st time in 11yrs..— Ian Bell (@Ian_Bell) November 19, 2015
..and come back determined to win my place back. Wishing all the guys selected the best of luck.— Ian Bell (@Ian_Bell) November 19, 2015
James Whitaker, the national selector, said: "Ian Bell has been an outstanding player for many years and undoubtedly still has plenty to offer England in the future. It was clearly a difficult decision but he has struggled for runs in recent series and we felt that it was the right time for him to take a break and spend time working on his game out of the spotlight.
"The inclusion of Nick Compton and Gary Ballance alongside Alex Hales, Joe Root and James Taylor gives Trevor Bayliss and Alastair Cook plenty of options in the top order.
"Adil Rashid showed plenty of promise in the UAE but the conditions in South Africa make the likelihood of playing two spinners extremely remote. Although he would have been selected as a back up spinner we feel there is an excellent opportunity for him to spend some time developing his white ball skills in the lead up to the ICC World T20 in March. It is likely that Adil will travel to Australia to play for a Big Bash franchise."
The selectors have had to explore the depth of the quick-bowling resources on offer after the injuries to Finn and Wood. Finn was ruled out of the Test series against Pakistan with a stress injury in his foot while Wood flew home after missing the final Test in Sharjah due to the management of his ongoing ankle problem.
The ECB statement said: "Wood will undergo ankle surgery next week and Finn will continue his recovery from a bone stress injury. Further details on their rehabilitation and back to bowling programmes will be provided in due course."
Footitt, who has recently signed for Surrey, has taken 160 first-class wickets in his previous two seasons for Derbyshire. He impressed the England management when he was used as a net bowler at the start of last summer against New Zealand and was called into the squad for the fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge after James Anderson's side injury.
Jordan was called into the squad for the Pakistan series after Finn's injury and retains his spot while Woakes returns for the first time since the 2014 series against India.