England to recall Bairstow to Test squad as Archer is rested

Bairstow was due to play for Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash but will withdraw from that and return to England after the tour of South Africa, which ends next Wednesday.

He will spend Christmas at home, then travel to Sri Lanka with the Test squad on January 2 for a two-match tour to be confirmed this week.

Bairstow has not played a Test this year after a tough 2019, but scored a century from No3 in England’s last Test in Sri Lanka two years ago and could slot in across the order in subcontinental conditions. England will face India immediately after the Sri Lanka tour.

There is still considerable doubt about the availability of Ollie Pope, as he recovers from a second operation on his left shoulder in as many years.

Due to Covid protocols, England will again require a bigger-than-usual squad of around 20 for the tour, which is also likely to include Ben Foakes and Jos Buttler.

Moeen Ali, who has been in the Test wilderness since August 2019, expressed interest in touring last month, but it remains a long shot that Adil Rashid will travel. Both Matt Parkinson and Mason Crane, the young legspinners, are training with Test players at Loughborough as England plan for the tour. 

With pace bowling unlikely to be vital, Archer looks likely to be rested for Sri Lanka, before rejoining the squad for the four-Test India leg. He is being rested for the ODIs in South Africa and England are keen to manage his workload.

Archer went to the IPL and his absence for Sri Lanka would shine a light on the inequities in England’s contracting system. Mark Wood, who turned down this year’s IPL, would likely be required to step in for Archer in Sri Lanka, despite not being awarded a Test contract.

England sewed up the T20 series against South Africa with a game to spare yesterday, with Dawid Malan making 55 in a chase of 147. Captain Eoin Morgan says England will not make changes for the sake of it in tomorrow’s third rubber.  

“The changes will be made purely on trying to win the game. There won’t be a matter of giving guys a run,” Morgan told TalkSport.  

“We will focus on trying to get our best XI out, given what type of pitch we might be playing on. I think we are on the same pitch as we played on at Newlands in the first game so we will have a look at that over the next couple of days and see potentially a change in the bowling lineup but I’d imagine the batting would stay the same.”

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