Ian Bell dropped by England, Nick Compton and Gary Ballance return
Last Updated: 09/12/15 10:08am
Ian Bell has been dropped from the England Test squad to tour South Africa with Nick Compton and Gary Ballance recalled.
The selectors insist that does not necessarily mean the 33-year-old's Test career is over, but after a poor series against Pakistan he has been given a break.
Left-arm fast bowler Mark Footitt and Nottinghamshire opener Alex Hales are the two uncapped players included.
Injuries to pace bowlers Mark Wood (left ankle) and Steven Finn (left foot) mean they are both unavailable for selection.
With only one spinner likely to be needed on South African pitches, Yorkshire's leg-spinning all-rounder Adil Rashid has been left out after making his debut against Pakistan in the UAE. Samit Patel keeps his place alongside Moeen Ali in the 16-man squad.
National selector James Whitaker said: "Playing the No 1 ranked Test side in the world in their home conditions will be a really exciting challenge for this squad and one I'm sure these players will relish.
"Ian Bell has been an outstanding player for many years and undoubtedly still has plenty to offer England in the future. It was clearly a difficult decision but he has struggled for runs in recent series and we felt that it was the right time for him to take a break and spend time working on his game out of the spotlight.
"The inclusion of Nick Compton and Gary Ballance alongside Alex Hales, Joe Root and James Taylor gives Trevor Bayliss and Alastair Cook plenty of options in the top order.
"Adil Rashid showed plenty of promise in the UAE but the conditions in South Africa make the likelihood of playing two spinners extremely remote.
"Although he would have been selected as a back-up spinner we feel there is an excellent opportunity for him to spend some time developing his white ball skills in the lead up to the ICC World T20 in March. It is likely that Adil will travel to Australia to play for a Big Bash franchise.
"On behalf of the selectors I would like to wish Alastair and Trevor all the very best for the tour."
Warwickshire star Bell has played 118 Test matches for England, with an average of 42.69, and only seven men have scored more runs for the country in Tests. But his last century was back in July 2014 and in 2015 he averages just 25.95.
Bell tweeted: "I'm absolutely gutted not to be selected for the tour to SA. I certainly feel I could have contributed out there & have been working tirelessly 2 get into the best possible condition for the tour."
Yorkshire star Ballance was dropped from the Test side during last summer's Ashes series. But he averages over 47 in his 15 Tests and - with Hales expected to open with captain Alastair Cook - he looks set to battle it out with Compton for the No 3 spot.
Middlesex batsman Compton has played nine Tests, the last against New Zealand at Headingley in 2013.
Footitt - who recently joined Surrey from Derbyshire - has been one of the leading wicket-takers in county cricket for the last few seasons. He gives England a left-arm option, and with Wood and Finn out of action, he has a good chance of making his debut in South Africa.
England will play four Tests against South Africa, with the first beginning on Boxing Day in Durban.
Test squad to play South Africa: Alastair Cook, Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonathan Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Nick Compton, Mark Footitt, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Samit Patel, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Taylor, Chris Woakes.
England's tour of the UAE continues on Friday - you can watch the crucial 4th ODI on Sky Sports 2 HD from 10.30am.