England drop Bairstow for first two Tests against the West Indies

Dropped: Jonny Bairstow has been left out of <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:England;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">England</a>'s squad for the first two Tests of the West Indies series (Greg Wood)

England left out Jonny Bairstow from their squad announced Sunday for the first two Tests of next month's three-match series against the West Indies, with wicketkeeping duties set to be taken over by the uncapped Jamie Smith.

There was no place in the squad either for Ben Foakes, the first-choice wicketkeeper in a Surrey team where the 23-year-old Smith is often deployed as a specialist batsman.

Smith was one of three uncapped players included in a 14-man squad, with promising seamers Gus Atkinson and Dillon Pennington included as England look to rebuild ahead of the 2025/26 Ashes series in Australia.

But Jack Leach was omitted, with Somerset team-mate Shoaib Bashir the lone specialist spinner in the squad.

Bairstow won his 100th cap in England's previous Test, against India in Dharamsala, but a top score of 38 in 10 innings leaves him battling to salvage his career in the five-day game.

Since spending nearly a year out of the game following a horrifying leg break in a freak accident on a golf course, Bairstow has struggled to regain top form.

Foakes was widely praised for his work in the field as England's wicketkeeper during their 4-1 series loss in India, but he averages under 30 with the bat in Tests.

Smith, who featured twice in last year's one-day international series against Ireland, appears more in tune with the aggressive 'Bazball' approach England have adopted under coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes.

He made a stunning 155 in 179 balls for the County Championship title holders against Warwickshire earlier in the campaign.

And Smith celebrated his England call-up by hitting exactly 100, with two sixes and 14 fours, in Surrey's Championship match against Essex on Sunday.

The first Test at Lord's starts on July 10, with the match set to be England great James Anderson's last before the 41-year-old paceman retires from the format.

With fellow new-ball bowler Stuart Broad having already retired after last year's drawn home Ashes series, England must now decide how to replace two bowlers who have taken a monumental 1,304 Test wickets between them.

The experienced Chris Woakes was recalled Sunday for the first time since being named player of the series in the 2023 Ashes against Australia.

Injuries, however, have deprived England of several rising stars.

But Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson, given repeated warnings about his fitness, was still omitted on Sunday -- just days after being hit for a record 43 in an over by Leicestershire's Louis Kimber.

Durham's Matthew Potts has been recalled, having taken an encouraging 23 wickets at under 30 in six Tests following a debut in 2022.

- 'Extra poignant' -

Anderson's 700 Test wickets are the most taken by any paceman in Test history, while his 187 are the most by an England player.

"The first Test of the summer is always a special moment, but it will be extra poignant with it being Jimmy’s (Anderson) last Test before he retires," said England managing director Rob Key in a statement issued Sunday.

"He has given everything to the sport since his Test debut in 2003. We all would like to wish him well as he walks out at Lord's for the last time for England," added former England batsman Key, who is due to hold a press conference on Monday.

Bashir, 20, was fast-tracked into the England squad in India and responded with 17 wickets in three Tests.

But having gone on loan to Worcestershire after failing to displace Leach in the Somerset side, he has now knocked his erstwhile team-mate out of the Test squad.