England have unveiled a new-look top order for the forthcoming Test tour of Sri Lanka after more than a decade in the safe hands of Alastair Cook.
Record run-scorer Cook signed off from international duty in memorable fashion at the Oval last month, leaving national selector Ed Smith in charge of piecing together a fresh opening partnership for the three-match series in November.
Newcomers Rory Burns and Joe Denly have been selected for the tour, alongside a reprieved Keaton Jennings.
Surrey’s County Championship-winning captain Rory Burns, who tops the domestic charts after passing 1,000 runs for a fifth successive year, was a near certainty despite having never featured in a squad before.
The 28-year-old is not an aesthetic option but an enduringly effective one, at least at domestic level, and is joined by a second Test rookie in Joe Denly.
Kent batsman Denly, 32, last featured for his country eight years ago, having played in nine one-day internationals and two Twenty20s.
His status as the man in possession and the experience of a Test century in sub-continental conditions on debut in Mumbai seemingly tipped the scales in his favour.
“I don’t really get hung up on the ‘next Alastair Cook’ narrative,” said Smith following the announcement at Trent Bridge.
“I think Rory Burns really deserves his chance in the Test squad. He has impressed everyone with the consistency of his run scoring, not just this year when he’s scored 1,300 runs and led Surrey to the title – which are both significant achievements – but over five years.”
As for Denly, who rebuilt his reputation on the global T20 circuit and bowls serviceable leg-spin which could be used to support frontline trio Jack Leach, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, Smith offered a glowing tribute.
“I played with Joe when he was a very young man, you could see he was a fantastic natural athlete, a brilliant mover, talented batter, bowled leg-spin and everything came very easily to him,” he said.
“What’s happened with Joe is he’s evolved into this really calm, measured performer but that touch of class is still there. It’s in his DNA.”
Warwickshire’s Olly Stone continued his sharp career trajectory, following his first one-day call-up for next month’s five-match series with a maiden Test spot.
The 24-year-old’s ability to breach 90mph and an impressive statistical haul in Division Two this year counted in his favour but he appears alongside senior seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad – not instead.
On rumours one or both might have been spared the trip, Smith added: “At some stage there will be some need for succession planning, however in this instance we felt it was perfectly manageable for them to play these three Tests.”