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England v West Indies: Dillon Pennington and Jamie Smith earn first Test call-ups

A split image of Dillon Pennington (left) and Jamie Smith (right)


Stephan Shemilt, chief cricket writer

If the India series was the end of the beginning of the Ben Stokes-Brendon McCullum project, then this is definitely a fresh start for the second part of their tenure, building to – and probably ending with – the Ashes down under in 2025-26.

James Anderson had already been told it was time to move on, but the removal of Bairstow, Foakes, and Leach, three regulars during Stokes’ time as captain, is brutal and decisive.

The feeling was England would be on the lookout for a new keeper but Smith is a left-field move, with many thinking the battle would be between Durham’s Ollie Robinson and Lancashire’s Phil Salt.

The omission of Leach, a key Stokes ally, is more of a surprise, but there are doubts over his fitness – he has not played a full part in a Test for more than a year. He has also struggled in Australia before and England are intrigued by what Bashir can offer.

The interesting element of this selection is that, in choosing Smith over Foakes and Bashir over Leach, England have chosen two men who are understudies at their counties to the men they are replacing in the national side.

If we are to assume Mark Wood will return after a rest, the other notable absentee is the seam-bowling Ollie Robinson. It feels like he has plenty to do to win back England’s trust after a hugely disappointing tour of India.

Those who say the England set-up is too cosy, that they only pick their favourites, can do so no longer. This is a fresh and exciting squad, a new chapter in the fascinating Stokes-McCullum story.



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