London, Nov 19 (IANS) England dropped batsman Ian Bell from their 16-man squad for next month’s four-Test cricket series against South Africa on Thursday. England selectors also recalled batsmen Nick Compton and Gary Ballance to fill the void. Compton, who currently has nine Test caps, last played for England in May 2013. Ballance has played 15 Tests since making his debut against Australia in 2014 and was last involved during the Ashes series earlier this year. The squad will play two three-day games ahead of the first Test in Durban starting on December 26. 

Two players uncapped at Test level have been included in the squad: left-arm seamer Mark Footitt and Alex Hales. Pacers Mark Wood (left ankle) and Steven Finn (left foot) were excluded owing to injuries. Wood will undergo ankle surgery next week and Finn will continue his recovery from a bone stress injury.

Selector James Whitaker said in a statement: “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.” “Playing the number one 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,” he added. 

The squad: Alastair Cook (Captain), 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.

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    The IANS was founded by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the India Abroad News Service. It was later renamed the Indo-Asian News Service.

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