National selector Ed Smith has defended his decision to pick Jos Buttler after the destructive wicketkeeper-batsman earned a shock recall for England’s opening Test of the summer against Pakistan next week.
Buttler, who played the last of his 18 Tests in December 2016, has been in blistering form for Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League and has scored five consecutive half-centuries, but has not played red-ball cricket since the end of last season.
The 27-year-old is set to bat at No7 against Pakistan at Lord’s, in a match which starts on 24 May, with skipper Joe Root moving to No3 and Jonny Bairstow – the Yorkshireman will retain the wicketkeeping gloves – being promoted to No5.
There is no place for Hampshire’s James Vince following a difficult winter, despite his unbeaten double ton in the County Championship against Somerset at Taunton on Monday.
“The selection panel felt it was the ideal time to reintroduce Jos to Test cricket,” said Smith after naming the 12-man squad – his first since being appointed to his role in April.
“As a player of unique gifts, the way he is playing at the moment, what he brings to the team as a destructive batsman, as a fantastic competitive presence, as a dynamic athlete and as someone who is playing with such confidence and flair, we overwhelmingly felt it was the right time.
“I’m fully aware he hasn’t played a red-ball match since the back end of last season. The decision has been made with eyes wide open. We feel it is the right thing, at the right time with the right player.
“Jos playing as he can play, his way, has the potential to be a really positive force in Test cricket. The batting ability he has, not just power but touch, finesse and the way his decision-making has evolved is something we’re very excited about.”
Even though the axe has fallen on Vince, who averaged 27 against Australia during the winter but showed form in England’s second innings of the second Test against New Zealand with a knock of 76, Smith insists the 27-year-old’s Test career is not necessarily over.
“Vince was considered to bat where he usually bats at No3 or No4 and the decision went against him,” added Smith. “In terms of his future, James Vince playing well is a terrific player to watch. When he plays well, boy does he look a Test player.
“However, James has played 13 Tests and averages 24 but there is a bigger picture than that with him. In his cricketing history, he has not produced the runs he should have done and not defined enough matches in a way a batsman of his ability should.
“In the last couple of days [against Somerset] he has done exactly that. If he can bat in that manner with all the other things he can do then the door is not closed on him.”
Also included in the squad is uncapped off-spinner Dominic Bess, who has replaced Somerset team-mate Jack Leach, who suffered a broken thumb on Monday.