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England announce 12-man squad for first Test against South Africa

Gary Ballance makes a return after almost a year, while uncapped Middlesex seamer Toby-Roland Jones gets his first call-up.

This will be Joe Root’s first series as captain after replacing Alastair Cook

The England squad for the first Test against South Africa at Lord’s has been announced by the England and Wales Cricket Board, five days before the start of the series. The 12-man squad will be led by Joe Root for the first time since taking over from Alastair Cook, and marks the recall of left-hander Gary Ballance after almost a year.
 
"He (Ballance) has been in fantastic touch with the bat in the Championship averaging over 100. He deserves to be included and we feel that he will add maturity and experience to our middle-order”, James Whitaker, chairman of selectors, recently said.

England play a  four-Test series against South Africa at home, having played the ODI and T20I series before the Champions Trophy last month. Both the three-match 50-over and 20-over series was clinched by the hosts 2-1. 
 
Ballance returns to the English Test squad after a gap of almost a year, having last played for the team during their tour of Bangladesh in 2016. His poor returns of 24 runs in four innings forced the selectors to oust him, but a prolific run in the County Championship season (he’s scored 815 runs at an average of 101.88) have prompted his recall.
 
While James Anderson and Stuart Broad have taken their place back in the squad after successfully recovering from their respective injuries, Jake Ball and Chris Woakes have not been able to make it to the 12-man squad because of a knee injury and a side strain respectively.
 
Toby-Roland Jones, an exciting pacer from Middlesex, has a chance to make his debut at Lord’s, and has been backed to perform well by the selectors, who have admitted to have kept an eye on him for quite a while.

"Toby has been in good form this campaign and his ability to seam the ball along with the fact that he can score useful runs down the order gives us a number of options", Whitaker had said.

Haseeb Hameed, who won hearts with his gritty batting displays in India last year, has been omitted from the squad due to a poor run of form in the domestic circuit.

Here’s the complete squad:
Joe Root (captain), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Liam Dawson, Keaton Jennings, Toby Roland-Jones, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood
 
The series started with a 4-day practice game between the England Lions and the South Africa, which is currently underway and will be followed by the four Test matches that commence at Lord’s on July 6.

Also read: ECB make a move towards free-to-air cricket in new broadcast deal

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