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Fit-again Anderson back in England squad

By AAP Newswire

England's fit-again seamer James Anderson has been included in their 17-man Test squad for the looming four-match tour of South Africa.

Anderson, England's top test wicket-taker with 575, suffered a right calf tear in the opening Ashes test against Australia in August before being ruled out of the series.

The 37-year-old also missed England's two-test series in New Zealand, which they lost 1-0, and is building up his fitness in a specialist pace bowling camp in South Africa that began on December 1.

Moeen Ali was not picked after the allrounder said in September he would take a break from Test cricket having lost out on an English central contract for the longest format for the 2019-20 season while Lancashire seamer Saqib Mahmood was dropped.

Pace bowler Mark Wood is back in the squad despite nursing a left knee injury while wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow also returns.

"James hasn't completed a game since the injury but the evidence we have seen in front of us is very encouraging that he'll be able to play a full part in the tour," national selector Ed Smith said.

"Mark has progressed well but the medical advice is he's unlikely to be fit for the start of the tour.

"The plan and the hope is for him to available at some stage."

Bairstow was dropped for the New Zealand series defeat after averaging 23.77 during the Ashes.

It was a move that backfired when newcomer Ollie Pope had to deputise behind the stumps for the second Test in Hamilton after Jos Buttler sustained an injury.

"Jonny Bairstow playing well can get into the England team in a number of different positions," Smith said.

The four-match series, starting on December 26, will mark England's first away games in the ICC World Test Championship.

England squad: Joe Root (Yorkshire, capt), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jofra Archer (Sussex), Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Rory Burns (Surrey), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Zak Crawley (Kent), Sam Curran (Surrey), Joe Denly (Kent), Jack Leach (Somerset), Matt Parkinson (Lancashire), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Dominic Sibley (Warwickshire), Ben Stokes (Durham, vice-capt), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire), Mark Wood (Durham).