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India v England: Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer return to Joe Root’s squad for first two Tests in Ahmedabad

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Archer and Stokes last played Test cricket against Pakistan in August 2020

All-rounder Ben Stokes and fast bowler Jofra Archer have returned to the England squad for the first two Tests of the tour of India.

Both Stokes and Archer were rested for the current series in Sri Lanka.

Batsman Rory Burns, who has been on paternity leave, also returns, but Ollie Pope is yet to fully recover from a shoulder injury.

Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Sam Curran will all be rested for the first half of the four-Test series.

The series begins on 5 February, with the first two Tests taking place in Chennai. The third match, a day-nighter, and fourth Test are in Ahmedabad.

England have only named a squad for the first two Tests, with further players due to be rested for the second half of the series as workloads are managed in a year that is set to include 17 Tests and a T20 World Cup, potentially all in bio-secure conditions.

National selector Ed Smith has confirmed that Jos Buttler will leave the tour after the first Test, meaning Ben Foakes will keep wicket in the second.

“It’s a huge year of Test cricket and also a World Cup, a lot of one-day cricket alongside. We’re going to have to look after players,” said Test captain Joe Root. “With the climate and environment we’re in, resting players is going to be vital.”

Vice-captain Stokes, 29, has not played a Test for England since the first match against Pakistan in August.

Like Archer, he played for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League in October and November and was part of the squad for three T20s against South Africa. Both men were rested for the one-day series against the Proteas, which was subsequently postponed.

“You speak to any side in the world – those two guys coming back into it would give the squad a huge boost and it’s certainly the case for us,” added Root.

“I’m very excited to see them back in and around the squad, hopefully they are full of energy and ready to go when they get here.”

Surrey batsman Pope has not played since dislocating his shoulder while fielding in the third Test against Pakistan at the end of August.

He is with the squad in Sri Lanka and played in England’s only day of on-field preparation, but while he is fit enough to bat, he is still working towards being able to spend long spells in the field.

Of the trio to be rested for the first part of the India tour, all-rounder Curran and fast bowler Wood are the only England pace bowlers who will play both Tests in Sri Lanka. Batsman Bairstow has had little break from bio-secure conditions since June, having been part of England’s home summer, the IPL and the tours of South Africa and Sri Lanka.

As well as a 16-strong main squad, England will also travel with six reserves, one fewer than in Sri Lanka, with Somerset pace bowler Craig Overton not included.

England won 2-1 in India in 2012-13, their first series win there in 27 years and India’s most recent defeat on home soil.

In 2016, the tourists were beaten 4-0 in what proved to be Alastair Cook’s last series as captain.

Even if England win the second and final Test against Sri Lanka, which begins on Friday, they are likely to need a big victory in India to stand any chance of reaching the final of the World Test Championship.

England squad for first two Tests in India: Joe Root (Yorkshire) (captain), Jofra Archer (Sussex), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Dom Bess (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Rory Burns (Surrey), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Zak Crawley (Kent), Ben Foakes (Surrey), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Jack Leach (Somerset), Dom Sibley (Warwickshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Olly Stone (Warwickshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire).Reserves: James Bracey (Gloucestershire), Mason Crane (Hampshire), Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire), Matthew Parkinson (Lancashire), Ollie Robinson (Sussex), Amar Virdi (Surrey).

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