Gary Ballance: England recall batsman for first South Africa Test

Gary Ballance bats for England
Gary Ballance averages 39.25 in 21 Tests
First Investec Test, England v South Africa
Venue: Lord's Dates: 6-10 July Start: 11:00 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra, Radio 4 LW and online. Live text commentary and in-play video clips on BBC Sport website

Batsman Gary Ballance has been recalled to the England squad for the first Test against South Africa at Lord's starting on Thursday.

The Yorkshire left-hander, 27, who played the most recent of his 21 Tests in October, averages 101 in the County Championship this season.

Uncapped Middlesex seamer Toby Roland-Jones and Hampshire spinner Liam Dawson are also in a squad of 12.

The opening match of the four-Test series is Joe Root's first as captain.

Durham pace bowler Mark Wood, who has not played a Test since October 2015 because of an ankle injury, also features alongside James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

Ballance back as Hameed misses out

Opener Haseeb Hameed, who missed the final Test of last winter's series defeat in India with injury, is overlooked after failing to reach 50 in 12 championship innings for Lancashire this summer.

Keaton Jennings, promoted to open in Hameed's absence in India, retains his place and is set to open alongside former captain Alastair Cook.

South Africa-born Jennings, who made a century on his Test debut, averages 36 in Division Two for Durham this term.

Cook, 32, England's record Test run-scorer with 11,057, stood down as captain in February. He averages 66 in Division One for Essex this season.

England v South Africa Test series schedule
First Test: 6-10 July, Lord's
Second Test: 14-18 July, Trent Bridge
Third Test: 27-31 July, The Oval
Fourth Test: 4-8 August, Old Trafford

Yorkshire skipper Ballance is captaining an England Lions side also featuring Jennings against South Africa in the three-day tour match at New Road which ends on Saturday.

Dropped after making four consecutive single-figure scores in October's drawn Test series in Bangladesh, he has scored 815 runs in 11 championship innings this summer.

"He has been in fantastic touch," national selector James Whitaker said.

"He deserves to be included and we feel that he will add maturity and experience to our middle order."

Injuries open path for Roland-Jones

With Chris Woakes and Jake Ball ruled out by side and knee injuries respectively, Roland-Jones is in line to make his Test debut.

The 29-year-old claimed 1-34 on his one-day international debut against South Africa in May and has taken 76 championship wickets since the start of last season, more than any other seamer.

Whitaker said: "Toby Roland-Jones is a player we have been monitoring for quite some time and deserves his chance after a strong couple of seasons with Middlesex in red-ball cricket."

Toby Roland-Jones
Roland-Jones dismissed Hashim Amla to claim his first international wicket

Wood, who has taken eight wickets at an average of 34 in eight Tests, did not play for England in 2016 because of ankle problems that required three operations.

Bowling in boots specially designed to combat the impact on his heel, he took 4-33 against Australia in the Champions Trophy in June and has eight wickets in three championship matches for Durham this year.

Anderson, England's leading wicket-taker of all time, proved his fitness following a groin problem in two championship matches for Lancashire last month.

Broad has been struggling with a heel injury but will play for Nottinghamshire in the One-Day Cup final against Surrey on Saturday.

Slow left-armer Dawson, who took 1-29 on his debut in the final Test in Chennai last year, has 18 wickets at 30 apiece in Division One this summer.


BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew:

The batting order has yet to be confirmed but Jennings will open with Cook.

This is a change to the plan at the start of the season due to Hameed's loss of form and, while Jennings hasn't been pulling up many trees for Durham, the fact he played in the last Test before Christmas indicates consistency.

Not many would have given much for Ballance's prospects after his tortuous appearances against Bangladesh.

However, as Yorkshire captain, he's enjoyed a tremendous summer, and will probably bat at three with Root returning to his preferred four.

England squad: Joe Root (capt, Yorkshire), Alastair Cook (Essex), Keaton Jennings (Durham), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Jonny Bairstow (wkt) (Yorkshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Liam Dawson (Hampshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Mark Wood (Durham), James Anderson (Lancashire), Toby Roland-Jones (Middlesex).

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