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England recall Moeen Ali but rest Ben Stokes & Jofra Archer

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England have recalled Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow but rested Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer for the two Tests in Sri Lanka next month.

All-rounder Moeen, 33, has not played since taking a break from cricket in 2019, and batsman Bairstow was dropped a year ago.

Uncapped Essex batsman Dan Lawrence is included, with Rory Burns absent as his wife is expecting their first child.

England play two Tests in Galle starting on 14 and 22 January.

The tour was due to take place in March this year but was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, who has not played a Test for almost two years, also features in a 16-man squad that includes three spinners in Moeen, Dem Bess and Jack Leach.

All-rounder Stokes and pace bowler Archer will return for the four-Test series in India starting in February.

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England squad: Joe Root (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes (wk), Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Reserves: James Bracey (wk), Mason Crane, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Robinson, Amar Virdi.

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Moeen & Bairstow back in the fold

Off-spinner Moeen, who averages 28.97 with the bat and 36.59 with the ball in 60 Tests, was dropped during the 2019 Ashes against Australia before taking “a short break”.

He returned to England’s limited-overs teams in February 2020, when he said he “finally feels back”, and was part of the training group for the Test series at home to West Indies this summer.

Bairstow, who averages 37.74 from 70 Tests, was dropped during the tour of South Africa last winter after passing 50 once in 16 innings.

In September he lost his Test central contract for 2020-21, but this month pulled out of his Big Bash League contract with Melbourne Stars.

England plan to rest more players

Stokes took a period of compassionate leave between August and October to be with ill dad, Ged, who died in New Zealand on Tuesday.

He missed the end of England’s summer and the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL), returning to international cricket in the Twenty20 series against South Africa last month.

Archer is rested after spending significant time in bio-secure bubbles during England’s summer, the IPL and the tour of South Africa that was abandoned this week.

England said they will “provide a block of rest for all multi-format players at various points over the winter period”.

Batsman Ollie Pope, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, will join the squad in Sri Lanka and continue his rehab in preparation for the tour of India.

Analysis

Cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew

Covid and concussion replacements mean the squad of 16 is supplemented by no fewer than seven to cover every eventually for what is only a two-Test series.

There’s no return at least yet for leg-spinner Adil Rashid, with the crucial spin attack comprising Jack Leach and Dom Bess, with Mason Crane and Amar Virdi among the reserves.

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