The pair last played Test cricket on the 2019 tour of West Indies. Jonny Bairstow, who was on the recent tour of South Africa, has missed out on selection for the two-match series.
Off-spinner Moeen Ali, who last September announced his decision to take a break from Test cricket, remains unavailable for selection, while seamer James Anderson – who broke a rib in the second Test against South Africa – will continue his recovery ahead of the English summer.
Both Foakes and Jennings were on England’s previous tour of Sri Lanka in 2018. Foakes made his debut in the opening Test in Galle and hit a century to be named Player of the Match. He was subsequently named Player of the Series after England completed a 3-0 whitewash. He then played the first two Tests on the tour of West Indies that followed but was dropped for the third Test in St Lucia.
Jennings also hit a century in the Galle Test, but subsequent scores of 1, 26, 13, 1, 17 and 14 saw him dropped for the second Test of the tour of West Indies. He returned for England’s victory in St Lucia, hitting 31 runs across his two innings in the match. The Lancashire opener averages 44.44 in Tests on the subcontinent, with his only other Test century coming on debut against India in Mumbai in 2016.
Jack Leach, whose winter has been marred with illness, has been named in the squad alongside fellow tweakers Dom Bess and Matt Parkinson.
“The selection panel has supported continuity after a successful series victory in South Africa,” Smith said. “The South Africa tour marked the emergence of a very exciting group of young players, creating a nice balance with an experienced core of senior players. That squad is mostly retained, with some tweaks to the squad relevant to injury, rest and the challenges of playing in sub-continent conditions.
“Somerset spinner Jack Leach has recovered from his illness he picked up in South Africa and is now healthy and keen to resume his Test career.
“Jonny Bairstow has been in England squads across the three formats without a significant break. This two-Test tour presents a good opportunity for Jonny to be rested.
“Jimmy Anderson will continue to work with Lancashire and the ECB so that he is ready for the start of the County Championship season leading into the Test series against the West Indies in June.
“Moeen Ali is still unavailable for Test selection. The selectors are in consistent dialogue with Moeen and he remains a valued player in England cricket.”
The first Test against Sri Lanka will begin in Galle on March 19. Both matches in the series are part of the World Test Championship.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Ben Foakes, Keaton Jennings, Jack Leach, Matt Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood