England have named a 13-man squad for the final Test against India at The Oval which begins on Friday (September 7).
Despite the announcement on Monday (September 3) that opener Alastair Cook will retire from international cricket following the match in south London, England have decided against calling up another opening batsman which means Cook will open with Keaton Jennings in his 161st and final Test appearance.
England Test squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Alastair Cook, Sam Curran, Keaton Jennings, Ollie Pope, Adil Rashid, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes
With the series already in the bag, England may, however, experiment ahead of the upcoming winter tour to Sri Lanka. Surrey’s Ollie Pope, who played at Lord’s and Trent Bridge, is included after being dropped for the match at the Ageas Bowl and could return to the team should England decide to drop leg-spinner Adil Rashid and pick an extra batsman. Pope will play the first two days of Surrey’s County Championship game against Essex at Chelmsford before joining up with the squad.
Moeen Ali, who batted at three in the second innings in Southampton, a decision described as “tactical” by England, could also retain his spot there at The Oval. That would allow captain Joe Root to bat in his preferred number four position and would allow Jonny Bairstow, who had a poor game at number four in Southampton, to move back down the order where he is most comfortable. Hampshire’s James Vince, called up as injury cover for Bairstow for the fourth Test, has been left out.
England decided against picking Surrey’s Rory Burns, the leading run-scorer in Division One, for a debut on his home ground. The left-handed Burns is averaging 64 in the Championship this season and has scored three centuries in leading Surrey to the top of the table. He captained the England Lions earlier this season against India ‘A’, too and will surely make his Test bow during the winter.
Following the fourth Test, coach Trevor Bayliss admitted he wasn’t sure whether both James Anderson and Stuart Broad would play at The Oval after a gruelling schedule of four matches in five weeks. However, both are sure to be desperate to play and it is likely the pair will take the field, particularly as Essex fast-bowler Jamie Porter has not been included.
There is also a decision to be made about the wicket-keeping position with Bairstow’s finger injury, which ruled him out of taking the gloves at the Ageas Bowl, still on the mend. Bairstow will test the injury out in training this week but even if he is declared fit to take the gloves, it may still be that Jos Buttler keeps them anyway, an issue which will need careful management by Bayliss and Root with the Yorkshireman desperate to continue behind the stumps.
Chris Woakes remains in the squad after missing the fourth Test with a quad injury and will be assessed in the lead-up to the game. He was seen bowling in the middle on the morning’s before play in Southampton and he may come into contention although England will not risk him if there is any doubt about his fitness ahead of a busy red and white-ball winter. Should Woakes be available, Ben Stokes may sit this match out as he has a left knee issue which restricted his bowling in the previous match.