Ollie Robinson has made an immediate return to England’s Test squad for the series against India following the Twitter storm that marred his debut at Lord’s. The 27-year-old’s impressive seven-wicket first outing against New Zealand last month was overshadowed by the emergence of racist and sexist social media posts from his past, prompting his removal for the second Test while a disciplinary process was begun.
This in turn led to the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, with support from the prime minister, criticising the England and Wales Cricket Board for going “over the top” and a week of headlines and furious public debate. The upshot, however, was Robinson being cleared to resume his international career earlier this month.
Deemed to have served a three-match ban already – the second Test against New Zealand and two missed Twenty20s for Sussex – Robinson still has a suspended five-match ban hanging over him. But Chris Silverwood, the England head coach, has wasted no time in recalling the seamer for the first of five Tests against India.
Silverwood said: “Ollie proved in that [Lord’s] Test that he has the ability to replicate his outstanding form in the County Championship at international level and we will continue to work with him to develop his England career.”
Robinson is part of a 17-man squad for the series opener at Trent Bridge from 4 August and the second Test at Lord’s the following week, with captain Joe Root receiving his strongest available group of players after a period of rest and rotation that saw white-ball cricket prioritised for England’s multi-format players.
There are absentees, however, with Chris Woakes cruelly struck down by a bruised heel in the past week to continue a seemingly cursed 12-month period. The all-rounder was voted PCA player of the year last summer but has won just four white-ball caps since due to a string of isolation periods resulting from the logistical vagaries of the pandemic.
Woakes is targeting a possible return for the second Test, while Jofra Archer is also absent and will continue his rehabilitation from elbow surgery in May by turning out for Southern Brave in the Hundred.Ollie Stone, Archer’s fellow fast bowler, is out for the remainder of the season with a stress fracture to his lower back, leaving Mark Wood as the outright pace option.
Ben Stokes, Root’s vice-captain, will also feature for the first time in Test cricket since the India tour – a spell out caused by a fractured finger that required an operation in April – and there are returns for Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Sam Curran after resting during the New Zealand series.
That 1-0 loss to the Black Caps, sealed by a harrowing eight-wicket defeat at Edgbaston that saw England bowled out for 122 in their second innings, had prompted Silverwood to consider a recall for the experienced Dawid Malan.
But the head coach has instead kept faith with the batsmen who came up short, even if Ollie Pope appears to be a doubt due to a thigh injury and James Bracey has been stood down following a chastening first series as the stand-in wicketkeeper-batsman.
Dom Bess earns a recall after a strong first half of the season with Yorkshire and will act as back-up spinner to Jack Leach, even if the left-armer was himself overlooked against New Zealand as England opted for an all-seam attack.
Their buildup will sit in contrast to India, however, with the tourists currently playing against a County Select XI in Durham and down for a second three-day match against unconfirmed opposition next week. Root’s men will be featuringplay in two matches for their respective Hundred teams before the squad meets up on 31 July.