England v West Indies: Dom Bess in squad, Jack Leach misses out

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Dom Bess has taken 11 wickets in four Tests at an average of 29.72

England have named Dom Bess as their spinner in a 13-man squad for the first Test against West Indies, which begins on Wednesday.

Off-spinner Bess is chosen ahead of Jack Leach and Moeen Ali, who is not among the list of nine reserves.

Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Joe Denly will be the top four in the absence of Joe Root, who misses out for the birth of his second child.

Ben Stokes will stand in as captain for Root in Southampton.

England squad: Ben Stokes (capt), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler (wk), Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Reserves: James Bracey, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes (wk), Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Ollie Robinson, Olly Stone.

Stokes will become England’s 81st Test skipper and the first all-rounder to take charge since Andrew Flintoff.

One of his first decisions will be the make-up of the pace bowling attack, with the coronavirus lockdown that has prevented England from playing Test cricket since January resulting in a fully fit complement of fast bowlers.

Pace bowlers James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes will vie for what are likely to be three places in the team.

Sam Curran, who may also have been in contention before falling ill during a practice match this week, is among the reserves.

He is joined on the back-up list by fellow seamers Craig Overton, Ollie Robinson, Olly Stone and Saqib Mahmood, and left-arm spinner Leach.

Ben Foakes is the reserve wicketkeeper, while uncapped pair Dan Lawrence and James Bracey provide batting cover, meaning there is no place for Jonny Bairstow.

Bairstow, like Moeen, could not do enough in the practice match to force his way into the reckoning.

Worcestershire all-rounder Moeen had made himself available for Test cricket after taking a self-imposed break that began after being dropped during last summer’s Ashes series against Australia.

That left Leach as England’s first-choice spinner, but when he fell ill during the winter Somerset team-mate Bess impressed in the series win in South Africa.

The three-Test series with West Indies will be played behind closed doors and in a bio-secure environment in Southampton and Manchester.

Analysis

Cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew

This is a bigger squad than England take on winter tours, but such is the uncertainty over illness despite being locked in a bio-bubble that nine players will remain locked on site as reserves.

It is interesting to see who hasn’t made it – Moeen and Bairstow – while Bess is rewarded for his performances in South Africa.

Denly and Crawley will be in a play-off to survive when captain Root returns.



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