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Foakes, Jennings earn England calls for Sri Lanka tour

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London (AFP)

Ben Foakes and Keaton Jennings are back in England's Test squad for the first time in 12 months after being picked for the tour of Sri Lanka.

Lancashire opener Jennings and Surrey wicketkeeper-batsman Foakes were discarded after the West Indies tour last year.

But both of Jennings' Test hundreds in his 17 appearances have come on the subcontinent and Foakes was player of the series in England's 3-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka in November 2018.

Foakes won the first of his five Test caps in Galle in November 2018 where he scored a fine hundred.

"Keaton Jennings has played five Tests in Asia and has scored two hundreds," National Selector Ed Smith said.

"Obviously there was the hundred on debut (against India) in Mumbai (in December 2016) and then the big hundred in Galle, which is where we are going to again.

"So in terms of squad depth, it seemed a sensible selection to go for someone who had plenty of experience in that part of the world."

England's record wicket-taker James Anderson remains absent as he recovers from a cracked rib sustained during the recent tour of South Africa.

Despite his Test struggles since last year's World Cup, Jos Buttler is one of England's most naturally gifted players and he has been given another chance by the selection panel.

However, Buttler will have to compete with Foakes for a place in the starting line-up in the two-Test series.

"I think there is a lot of support for Jos' talent. He is a very talented player and he's very highly regarded inside the team," Smith said.

"From our side there is a strong sense of continuity from the South Africa tour and he contributed in lots of different ways to that tour.

"There have been phases when he has been extremely consistent. When Jos has scored runs it has usually been in matches England have won."

- Bairstow backed -

Moeen Ali was England's joint-leading wicket-taker on their last visit to Sri Lanka but his decision to continue his indefinite break from Test cricket means Jack Leach, Dom Bess and Matt Parkinson will be the frontline spinners.

Leach, who matched Moeen's 18 wickets in Sri Lanka 16 months ago, has recovered from an illness that meant he played no part in England's recent 3-1 series victory over South Africa.

Yorkshire batsman Jonny Bairstow misses the trip to take a break having been part of the South Africa tour.

Bairstow contributed just 10 runs in his only Test in South Africa, but Smith is convinced he can still play an important role in the future.

"Jonny as a centrally-contracted player and a highly-talented player definitely has a future," he said.

"He is the T20 side and the ODI side - a central figure in that World Cup triumph - and no-one doubts that Jonny at his best is an asset across the formats.

"We believe he will benefit from having a certain amount of time away from England and he can get back into his best form."

Joe Denly has been retained despite a modest series in South Africa, where his 210 runs at an average of 30 matches his career average after 14 Tests.

England squad for the Test series against Sri Lanka starting on March 19:

Joe Root (capt), Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Ben Foakes, Keaton Jennings, Jack Leach, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Dominic Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood

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