Joe Denly is set to be dropped for England’s upcoming tour of Sri Lanka even though Keaton Jennings is now unlikely to be recalled when the squad for that two-Test series is announced next week.
Denly has held the No 3 position in England’s batting lineup but he averaged 30 during the 3-1 series win in South Africa. That matched the Kent batsman’s career average but after starting the South Africa series with a half-century in the opening Test at Centurion, he failed to pass 38 after that.
Despite Denly’s likely omission for the series in Sri Lanka in March, England will resist calls to bring back Jennings, who averages 25.19 across 17 Tests but who is seen as a spin-specialist top-order batsman having hit centuries against India in Mumbai on his debut in 2016 and Sri Lanka at Galle the last time Joe Root’s team toured there in late 2018.
Instead, England will keep faith with young openers Dominic Sibley and Zak Crawley, who both had encouraging series in South Africa, and are set to hand Jonny Bairstow a chance at No 3 in place of Denly.
Bairstow was asked to “reset” by the national selector Ed Smith and come back as a specialist batsman when he lost his position as England’s wicketkeeper to Jos Buttler at the end of last summer’s Ashes series against Australia.
The 30-year-old scored a century from No 3 when he played in the final Test against Sri Lanka at Galle in November 2018 and now has a chance to make the position his own before a summer when England play two three-Test series against West Indies and Pakistan.
Ben Foakes, the wicketkeeper named man of the series on England’s last tour of Sri Lanka, is also likely to be recalled, with Jos Buttler’s place under threat following a winter where he has averaged only 17.55 with the bat.
Faf du Plessis, meanwhile, has escaped sanction from the International Cricket Council for his on-field collision with Buttler on the final day of the fourth Test – but Stuart Broad has been punished for swearing at the South Africa captain during the same incident.
Du Plessis and Buttler clashed at the end of the 57th over of a day that saw England seal a 191-run victory at the Wanderers. It happened after a throw from Sam Curran at mid-off hit Du Plessis, who then became involved in a heated exchange with Broad. As the players came together Du Plessis came into contact with Buttler as he continued his argument with Broad, who is believed to have called Du Plessis a “fucking idiot”.
Joe Root, the England captain, described the clash between Du Plessis and Buttler as “handbags” after the match and the South African protested that there was no “malicious intent” when he collided with the England wicketkeeper.
Du Plessis could have been given four demerit points and a ban from either one Test or two white-ball matches if it had been deemed he had made deliberate contact with Buttler – a level two offence. However, no action was taken after Joel Wilson and Rod Tucker, the on-field umpires, deemed the contact to be accidental.
Instead, Broad has been charged with using an “audible obscenity” and been given one demerit point and a fine of 15% of his match fee, around £2,250. He now has two demerit points on his record having also been punished for giving Rishabh Pant a send-off during the third Test against India at Trent Bridge in August 2018. Picking up four demerit points in a two-year period triggers a ban.
Broad is the third England player to be punished by the ICC for swearing during this series in South Africa after Buttler during the second Test in Cape Town and Ben Stokes, who called an abusive fan a “fucking four-eyed cunt” on the opening day of the final Test at the Wanderers.