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.