James Vince and Jake Ball earn first call-ups to England Test squad
Simon Sinclair | May 12, 2016
James Vince and Jake Ball have been named in the 12-man England squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka.
Alastair Cook’s men are back in action in the longest form of the game for the first time since their triumph over South Africa during the winter.
Coral make England odds-on 1/7 favourites to clinch the series over the tourists, who somewhat struggled in their tour match against Essex, while a 3-0 whitewash comes in at 2/1.
Vince seizes opportunity
England were rocked by the retirement of James Taylor last month due to a heart condition.
The 26-year-old had solidified his place in the batting lineup with a good series against the Proteas, including an important innings of 70 in the first Test at Durban.
As a result there was an open space in the side, with several players battling to fill the void.
Gary Ballance impressed in the early stages of his Test career, but his poor form against New Zealand and Australia saw him removed from the firing line.
He was part of the squad for the tour of South Africa, although he failed to play in any of the five games, while his underwhelming start to the county season with Yorkshire has seen him fail regain his position.
Ian Bell was also in consideration to earn a recall after being left out of the last Test squad.
His misfires throughout 2015 saw him dropped for the series against the Proteas, although an early century for Warwickshire in their clash against Hampshire reminded the selectors of his quality.
However, England have gone in a new direction with the elevation of Vince to the squad following his fine displays for the Lions as well as Hampshire in the county game.
The 25-year-old has a solid average of 41 in first-class cricket, while he has made five appearances in limited-overs cricket for Trevor Bayliss’s men.
He has been a fine leader for the England Lions, but the knock that may have sealed his place was an impressive century against Yorkshire at Headingley last month.
Vince now faces the task of securing his long-term place in the side where many others in recent history have failed before him.
Ball ousts Woakes from seamers spot
Injuries over the winter opened up the opportunity for Chris Woakes to make himself a mainstay of the side.
However, the Warwickshire seamer took only two wickets in Test matches at Durban and Centurion, which has seen him fall behind the rising Ball in the pecking order.
Mark Wood’s injury problems have seen him removed from contention for at least another month, although he could return against Pakistan later this summer.
Steven Finn has overcome his niggling issues to take his place back in the side, but has struggled to find his best form for Middlesex so far this term.
England have turned to Ball following his impressive performances for Nottinghamshire over the past two seasons.
The 25-year-old has already taken 19 wickets for his side so far in the campaign and has the skills that England believe can be further developed at the highest level.
James Anderson’s advancing years mean that Bayliss and the selectors will be mining the county game in search of his replacement.
Ball has a good opportunity to press his case for a start at Headingley, although England are likely to pick their established trio of pacemen for the opening clash.