9 Oct 2009

England axe Harmison, Panesar and Bopara

10:50 am on 9 October 2009

Fast bowler Steve Harmison, left-arm spinner Monty Panesar and batsman Ravi Bopara have been left out of the England cricket squad for the tour of South Africa.

The South Africa-born batsman and former captain Kevin Pietersen is included in the 16-man Test squad, despite still recovering from the Achilles tendon operation which sidelined him for part of the Ashes series victory.

There are three uncapped players: Surrey wicketkeeper Steven Davies, Yorkshire leg-spinner Adil Rashid and Sussex all-rounder Luke Wright.

Seamer Liam Plunkett is recalled for the first time since 2007 at the expense of his Durham team-mate Harmison, who was the world's top-ranked bowler in 2004.

The first Test starts at Centurion on December 16.

England won their last series in South Africa 2-1 but lost at home last year.