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England vs India, 5th Test

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Sam Billings has been added to England’s Test squad to face India at Edgbaston on Friday, after stepping in to the team at Trent Bridge as a Covid substitute for Ben Foakes, whose place is in doubt while he undergoes five days of isolation.

Billings, whose previous Test cap had come in Hobart at the end of the Ashes tour in January, was once again called up at short notice, after Foakes missed the whole of the third day’s play at Headingley with a stiff back, before being substituted out of the game following his positive test.

Under the ICC’s protocols for Covid substitutions, Billings would have been permitted to bat if required in England’s second innings, and has now officially earned his second Test cap, even though his main contribution was a bizarre caught-behind off Neil Wagner that he managed to wedge between his knees.

It will be touch and go whether Billings will be required to make his third Test appearance against India on Friday, however. Having gone into isolation following his diagnosis on Sunday, Foakes is due to link back up with the squad on Birmingham, one day out from the Test.

Billings’ addition is the only change to what is now a 15-man squad, with the selectors choosing to keep faith in Zak Crawley at the top of the order, despite a lean series in which he was visibly struggling for form and confidence. His final contribution was an unconvincing innings of 25 from 33 balls, which included the run-out of his opening partner Alex Lees for 9, and he finishes the series with 87 runs at 14.50.

However, with the short turnaround to the India Test, and given that England’s management of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum are keen to reinforce a positive mindset within their players, Crawley has been backed to come good, having already made a century in the Caribbean earlier this year.

One probable change for the India Test will be the return of James Anderson to lead the attack, having missed the Headingley match with an ankle niggle. With Matthew Potts having starred against New Zealand with 14 wickets at 23.28, Anderson’s return may come at the expense of either Jamie Overton, who claimed one wicket in each innings of his debut Test but was singled out by Stokes for his match-turning innings of 97, or Stuart Broad, whose 12 wickets in the series came at 35.25.

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