All-rounder Ben Stokes recalled to England squad for first Test against India
Last Updated: 02/07/14 4:04pm
Ben Stokes has won a recall to the England squad for the first Test against India at Trent Bridge next week.
The Durham all-rounder has been added to the 12-man squad that was named for the series defeat to Sri Lanka last month.
Stokes has played four Tests and was one of the few success stories during the Ashes whitewash in Australia over the winter, but missed the start of the county season after breaking a bone in his hand punching a locker.
He has been in good form with the ball for Durham, taking a career best 10-121 during a recent game against Sussex, but faces increased competition for an all-rounder's role in the wake of Moeen Ali's encouraging start to Test cricket.
The Worcestershire batsman's unbeaten hundred almost saved England from a series defeat against Sri Lanka, and twice in as many Tests his off-spin removed Kumar Sangakkara.
National selector James Whitaker told Sky Sports News he was delighted to be able to call on Stokes once again.
"He's done really well over the last couple of weeks," he said. "He's probably bowled over 100 overs, he's in prime form with the ball and it's great news for him and England that he comes into a 13-man squad. It bolsters the seam attack.
"Ben did remarkably well for a young player in Australia. He's been frustrated at he start of the season and now he comes with full vigour into our squad.
"He's in the group of six seamers pushing for a place. Over the next few days he'll show Alastair (Cook) and Peter (Moores) what he's got. He's a vivacious character. He's got some x-factor, he's fantastic on flat wickets. He gets movement off the ball and the pitch and we're really encouraged by Ben."
Whitaker admitted England have had to rebalance the squad following the retirement of spinner Graeme Swann.
We think we've got a good balance now for the type of wickets we play on in England. Moeen Ali will help the spin department and so will Joe Root. It's a different way of balancing the team, but with four quality seamers who all bat by-and-large as well, we have a lot of depth, we just have to make it work.
"Everyone's been used to the success that he brought to English cricket, so to get a like-for-like replacement, we knew we were going to have to rebalance the team and look at different options," he added.
"We think we've got a good balance now for the type of wickets we play on in England. Moeen Ali will help the spin department and so will Joe Root. It's a different way of balancing the team, but with four quality seamers who all bat by-and-large as well, we have a lot of depth, we just have to make it work.
"It's different for the public to get used to. We have two or three young spinners in county cricket who we feel aren't quite ready yet, but in the meantime we have full confidence in Moeen Ali to do a very good job."
On the pressure surrounding skipper Alastair Cook, he added: "We know what Alistair brings. He's a fine leader and a quality player who's going through a period where he's struggling to get past 25. We've every confidence that will happen, he's got our full backing."
Whitaker also had praise for Chris Woakes, who was an unused member of the squad in the Sri Lanka series.
"Chris has done a lot of miles around the country and world in the reserve position, but he keeps high performance levels up for Warwickshire. He's a true all-rounder. He captained the Lions team remarkably well in the winter. We like what he gives to the party and I hope one day his chance will come."
Former England captain and Sky Sports commentator Michael Atherton believes Cook must throw the ball to Moeen more often if they are to continue to pick him.
"The selectors have got to ask themselves the question: is Moeen Ali the spinner? If he is they've got to have faith in him and bowl him," he said.
"I think he looks alright - he's clearly not the finished article and he's not Graeme Swann. But if they're picking him as a spinner as well as someone who bats they've got to have faith in him and give him the ball."
England squad: A Cook (Essex) (capt), M Ali (Worcestershire), J Anderson (Lancashire), G Ballance (Yorkshire),
I Bell (Warwickshire), S Broad (Nottinghamshire), C Jordan (Sussex), L Plunkett (Yorkshire), M Prior (Sussex), S Robson (Middlesex), J Root (Yorkshire), B Stokes (Durham), C Woakes (Warwickshire)