James Anderson, Mark Wood and Jonny Bairstow back in England Test squad

Mark Wood has not played a red-ball game since February

Mark Wood has not played a red-ball game since February

Dropped after one Test of the Ashes series, he felt a break from the longest format to help him refresh but it was expected that he would return for the South African tour to challenge Jack Leach's position as number one spinner.

England is now ranked 5th and South Africa is on 8th position in the league table.

Now lighting up the Mzansi Super League, Steyn, 36, retired from the long-form global landscape earlier this year: his Test debut had come on England's 2004/05 series in SA when he bowled his famous "Vaughan ball" in Port Elizabeth.

Fast bowler Wood is also back in the fold after sitting out of the 2-2 Ashes draw with a knee injury and side strain suffered during England's victorious World Cup campaign. England will certainly want him available for the tour to Sri Lanka early next year.

Bairstow, now working with Anderson and Wood, returns to the squad having been dropped for the two-Test series in New Zealand.

The Durham quick played the last of his 13 Tests against West Indies in February when he claimed his maiden five-wicket haul and will now be hoping to return to the side against South Africa.

Jonny Bairstow, James Anderson and Mark Wood have been recalled to England's Test squad for the four-match series in South Africa which begins on Boxing Day.

"It is not predicted that Mark (Wood) will be available for selection for the earliest matches", said England national selector Ed Smith. "However, he will travel with the team and continue his rehab work with the medical staff on tour".

Watch England's tour of South Africa live on Sky Sports Cricket. "With that in mind, and given the extended period that James and Mark have had on the sidelines due to injury, it was sensible to have a 17-man squad".

Rory Burns and Dominic Sibley retained their spot as openers in the team on the back of their decent performances against New Zealand.

But it is also thunderstorm season in those parts of South Africa, so any opportunity for moist or overcast conditions brings the lanky Anderson right into his own, while he may find more regular assistance at the coastal venues of Newlands and St George's Park - the surface at the latter has a reputation for becoming abrasive and encouraging reverse swing as the contest progresses.

Uncapped seamer Saqib Mahmood missed out after being part of the squad in New Zealand.

England Cricket Board announced a full-strength squad for the four-match Test series against South Africa that will begin from a boxing day game in Centurion.

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