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Denly in England’s squad for Windies Test

By AAP Newswire

England have named a 13-man squad for their long-awaited return to Test cricket against the West Indies next week, preferring Joe Denly to the uncapped Dan Lawrence and confirming Dom Bess as preferred spinner.

Selectors met at the conclusion of a three-day internal warm-up match on Friday and settled the few remaining questions over the shape of the side that will line up at the Ageas Bowl on Wednesday, as well as retaining a further nine reserve players.

Captain Joe Root was already absent from the bio-secure bubble in Southampton due to the impending birth of his second child, and another seven players who took part in this week's head-to-head match have been cut, including experienced duo Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali.

Five of the six batting slots were all but certain but there was some chance that Denly, a 34-year-old with a Test average of 30 in 14 appearances, would come under pressure from the exciting Lawrence.

Denly may yet need a score of substance to hold his spot for the rest of the series, with Root set to return for the two matches at Emirates Old Trafford later this month.

"What everyone has seen is that Joe has made lots and lots of good starts and lots and lots of good contributions to the team," national selector Ed Smith said.

"As a top-order batter Joe would obviously love to convert those starts into hundreds and big hundreds - that goes for any batsman - but also it is fully understood that he has contributed to good team batting performances. The England team has been batting with more consistency and solidity throughout the order and Joe has been a big part of that."

Smith was guarded on how close 22-year-old Lawrence, a two-time county champion at Essex and a recent star of the England Lions side, came to a call.

"I wouldn't want to speculate about any one person," he said.

"What I would say is that we are very excited to have the depth we do have."

In the bowling ranks there are five strong seam options - James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes - of whom only three are likely to take the field in each match.

Bess, meanwhile, remains in possession of the slow bowling position.

England squad: Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Joe Denly, Zak Crawley, Ben Stokes (capt), Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler, Dom Bess, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Stuart Broad and James Anderson.