England have named Mark Stoneman as Alastair Cook’s latest opening partner while leg-spinner Mason Crane is a surprise inclusion in the 13-man squad for next week’s historic day-night Test against West Indies.
Stoneman, as widely anticipated, replaces the misfiring Keaton Jennings and will become the 12th batsman since Andrew Strauss retired five years ago to get a chance to stake his claim at the top of the order alongside Cook.
Crane’s call-up for Edgbaston was largely unexpected after an indifferent season with Hampshire although the 20-year-old made a positive impression in England’s Twenty20 series against South Africa in June.
National selector James Whitaker said: “Selectors would like to offer their congratulations to Mark Stoneman and Mason Crane who thoroughly deserve their opportunity in the squad.”
Dawid Malan, who, like Jennings, struggled against the Proteas, and Tom Westley have been retained, meaning dynamic in-form batsman Alex Hales misses out, while there is a recall for Chris Woakes following the seamer’s recovery from injury.
Woakes was sidelined for all four South Africa Tests after suffering a side strain in England’s opening Champions Trophy encounter against Bangladesh on June 1.
He made his return for Warwickshire in the Specsavers County Championship this week and could be in a straight fight with Toby Roland-Jones for a bowling spot alongside frontline pair James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Whitaker said: “Chris Woakes has proved his fitness and returns to the squad having missed most of the summer through injury. He was impressive in his return game at Lord’s this week and if selected in the final line-up, he will be relishing the prospect of playing on his home ground.”
Whitaker also had kind words for Jennings, who averaged 15.87 against a South Africa side that were beaten 3-1 but whose bowlers exposed a few batting frailties in England’s top order.
Whitaker added: “Keaton Jennings will return to Durham and will look to recapture the form that earned him selection in the first place. I am sure he will find his confidence and look to score runs in the remaining matches of this season.”
The opening position has been a chronic headache for England since Strauss’ retirement, but Stoneman should bring fresh zeal to the squad as he is arguably in the form of his life.
Since swapping Durham for Surrey earlier this year, Stoneman has amassed 828 runs at an average of 59.14 in the championship and is well on course to pass 1,000 for the fifth year running. And it is his weight of runs that has seen him earn the nod over Jennings and the highly-rated Haseeb Hameed, whose composed 77 not out for Lancashire earlier this week was the first time he had passed 50 in first-class cricket in this campaign.