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News

Robinson in England's squad of 14 for first two Tests against South Africa

Potts has retained his place, while Billings has been dropped following Foakes' recovery after a bout of Covid-19

Ollie Robinson took two wickets in two balls, Australia vs England, The Ashes, 1st Test, Day 2, The Gabba, Brisbane, December 9, 2021

Ollie Robinson has 39 wickets from nine Test appearances so far  •  CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images

England have handed a recall to Ollie Robinson for the upcoming home Test series with South Africa.
Robinson, the right-arm seamer whose last Test appearance was against Australia in Hobart in January this year, has made the squad of 14 for the first two matches of the three-match series after a battle with an array of ailments that kept him out of action for almost two months. After coming through problems with his back, Covid-19, and dental issues, he will be in line to add to his nine caps so far.
Robinson, 28, has had a mixed start to his Test cricketer, despite exemplary overall figures of 39 dismissals at an average of 21.28. His debut at Lord's at the start of last summer was marred by the emergence of historic offensive tweets, before he put that behind him to emerge as England's standout bowler of 2021 and earning a spot as one of Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year. However, he was publicly admonished for his fitness during the 4-0 Ashes defeat, something which came in for further scrutiny when he was unable to play a part in England's tour of the Caribbean in March.
He began the 2022 summer looking to put that problem behind him only for back spasms and other niggles to restrict him to just four first-class appearances by the middle of May. But 4 for 44 and 5 for 66 in his return to County Championship action for Sussex against Nottinghamshire last week, getting through 36.1 overs, showed Robinson was back on the right path. He will continue to prove his game-readiness by turning out for the England Lions in their four-day match against the South Africans at Canterbury, which begins on August 9. ESPNcricinfo understands batter Harry Brook, also a member of the 14-man squad, will play in this match too.
The finishing touches on the squad were made by the selection committee on Monday, with Brendon McCullum dialling in from New Zealand. He is due to be back in England by the start of next week.
Robinson was expected to be part of the Lions squad, which is expected to be named on Friday. But an injury to Surrey quick Jamie Overton, who made his debut in the final Test against New Zealand at Headingley, saw them pick Robinson in the main group. Robinson was due to represent Manchester Originals in the Hundred, which starts on Wednesday, but opted to continue at Sussex and play in their Royal London Cup matches instead.
Durham's Matthew Potts, one of the beneficiaries of Robinson's absence, retained his place in the squad after 18 dismissals from his four Tests this summer. Wicketkeeper-batter Sam Billings has dropped out now that Ben Foakes has recovered from his bout of Covid-19, which led to him being replaced during the Headingley Test.

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor for ESPNcricinfo