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England take on New Zealand in three Tests, starting at Lord’s on June 2 live on Sky Sports; Brendon McCullum recalls James Anderson and Stuart Broad after the pair missed March’s Test series defeat in the West Indies; Harry Brook and Matthew Potts receive first call-ups
Last Updated: 18/05/22 7:31pm
It has been a busy few months for England men’s cricket; they’ve a new managing director, a new head coach and a new white-ball coach announced on the very same day as their first Test squad of the summer.
With it came the return of some familiar names to the set-up, most notably James Anderson and Stuart Broad, but also with some new, emerging talents in Harry Brook and Matthew Potts sprinkled in.
England’s new MD of men’s cricket, Rob Key, said upon the release of the squad: “There’s some seriously talented cricketers in this country and we just need to unlock that and get them playing to the best of their ability.”
Tasked with unlocking that talent will be new head coach and captain combo, Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes. Ahead of their first Test in charge – against New Zealand at Lord’s on June 2 – we take a look at what England’s XI will look like…
England Men’s Test squad v New Zealand
|Ben Stokes (Captain)||Durham|
Can Crawley find consistency?
Those closely-affiliated to Kent Cricket have always believed they possessed a future England batsman in Zak Crawley, and Rob Key still believes he does. But the future must be now.
The selection for this summer’s first Test against New Zealand points towards Crawley retaining his opening spot alongside Durham’s Alex Lees, despite him averaging just 19.50 in the County Championship so far this season.
While the talent is undisputed, questions of Crawley continue to surround his consistency on the Test stage and whether his style can fit the bill as a long-term solution to England’s top-order woes.
“Crawley has been selected on potential,” said former England captain Nasser Hussain. “It’s been a bit feast or famine for him; he got 100 in the first Test in the Caribbean and four single figure scores, he got 70 in Sydney [in The Ashes] and not a lot else, he got that 250 [last year versus Pakistan] at the Ageas Bowl and not a lot else.
“The reason for that is he’s got a slight technical issue with his bat coming across the line of the ball and as an opener, he plays a big booming drive very early on and has been found wanting with the technical failing he’s got.
“I hope he’s had a look at his game. With the Dukes ball in England against that New Zealand attack, however much you want to play positive and attacking cricket, you’ve also got to play the situation as an opener.
“You want your opener to be a little bit more consistent, so I see why they’ve stuck with Crawley but you can only live off potential for so long.
“And with all the changes in captains and coaches and directors of cricket, the biggest change I want is Joe Root coming in at 120-2, not 20-2.”
Is Ollie Pope at No 3 a risk?
There had been talk of Crawley possibly moving down to No 3 in the order, to make way for another opener, but instead it looks like Ollie Pope has the chance to make the spot his own – despite never having previously batted there.
Pope has notched 417 runs at 69.50 for Surrey this season, and though shifting the 24-year-old up the order is a risk, it’s one England are willing to take in the hope Pope can translate his county form onto the international scene.
“I have no real issue with it, I think he has the technique and temperament,” Key said. “It’s down to us to get the best out of him, that’s my view on all of that, give him the backing to go and do it so we can now finally see the potential we all think he has.
“If you ask who is the best No 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, you’d probably put Joe Root down as all of those. Then after that, we feel that Ollie Pope is the man.
“With a lot of those guys now, the bet is that with the talent they have, with this environment, these coaches – Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes – we get the best out of one of our most talented cricketers.
“Ollie Pope is one of those, if we can unlock him which I think we can, there’s a seriously good Test cricketer there whether that’s at 3, 4 or 5, he could be a very, very good Test match batsman and I think he’ll do a fine job.”
In contrast to his production in county cricket, Pope has averaged just 28.66 in 23 Test matches for England, managing a top score of 35 in The Ashes over the winter and having scored a fifty only once (81 vs India) in his last 12 Test outings.
“Duncan Fletcher used to say to me in selection meetings, ‘it’s like an investment, when you pick somebody, it’s an investment for the future’, and anyone that would have seen Pope bat at Surrey over the last two or three years will know what a talent he is,” said Hussain.
“The problem is he’s not been able to transfer that onto the international stage of late, he’s looked a bit frenetic, a bit chaotic at the crease.
“I think Rob Key has basically said to him, ‘if you want to be in this side at the moment, with Harry Brook and Jonny Bairstow, and Stokes and Root, you’ll have to bat at No 3’ and that’s an option he’s got to take on board.”
Is the middle-order set?
Such has been the focus on batting frailties, new faces, bowling injuries and the proposed new chapter for England’s Test cricket, one storyline to scoot under the radar has been that of Joe Root beginning life without the captaincy.
Root will again bat at No 4, following a brief, self-imposed promotion back to three for his final tour as skipper in the West Indies, while Key confirmed “Jonny Bairstow will come in at No 5” as he was included in the squad despite suggestions he could be rested in the wake of the IPL.
As such, young Harry Brook will likely have to wait patiently for a maiden Test cap. The 23-year-old Yorkshire batsman has starred in Division One of the County Championship this season with 758 runs at an average of 151.60, scoring a second-innings unbeaten 82 last time out to help his side to a draw against Lancashire.
“I think it’s probably difficult for Brook to get in [against New Zealand],” said Hussain. “I know he’s getting runs, he does it in a very attacking manner.
“I sat and watched a stream of Yorkshire playing Essex 10 days ago and he just took Essex down. A very attacking player.
“He’s looked at his fitness, he’s looked at his trigger movements and he’s really worked hard. He was a prolific white-ball player last year; this year in red-ball cricket he’s been outstanding. But I don’t think he can get in.
“Bairstow has two hundreds in his last four Test matches… so it may be difficult for Brook to get in unless there is an injury or they see something in the nets in the week and say, ‘actually this lad is in great nick, he’s going to play’.”
Newly-appointed captain Stokes will begin his reign batting at No 6, while wicket-keeper Ben Foakes gets another chance to cement his spot at No 7.
England’s failings in Test cricket have tended to lie with the top order of late, but that does not ease any of the pressure on the more experienced heads of the middle order.
Injuries pave the way for Potts
A combination of form, projection and injuries has paved the way for Matty Potts as he vies for an England Test debut upon his maiden call-up.
The 23-year-old Durham seamer steps into the fold at a time when England are missing Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes, Saqib Mahmood, Olly Stone and Matthew Fisher all to injury, while Ollie Robinson has been omitted from the squad with concerns too over his fitness after seeing limited action for Sussex so far this summer.
Key said of Potts: “Ben Stokes has seen him close at hand… and the scouts have seen a lot of him and have seen his development.
“He’s been involved in the pathway, so his character is understood. That’s the one thing that really stood out; there’s a lot of people who can run in and get the ball down there at various different paces, but it’s the character really.
“I’m excited by someone of that age. When these injuries were happening and you start seeing someone like that emerge, the way that he looks – like you’re in a proper contest when you’re facing him – I get really excited about that.
“Out of an injury problem that we’ve got at the moment, some good will come out of it and it may be him.”
Potts leads the country with 35 wickets in the County Championship so far this season, averaging 18.57 across his opening six games for Durham.
“He’s got four five-fors, he’s got 7-40 in his last game at Glamorgan and he’s done all of that with Ben Stokes stood at mid-off chatting with him,” said Hussain.
“He’s aggressive, he keeps his speeds up. He’s a real talent this young man. Sometimes it can be a disadvantage having the England captain there, he sees the good and the bad of you, but there’s not been too much bad from Matthew Potts.”
How will Anderson and Broad be used?
The return of James Anderson and Stuart Broad had been expected after the pair were left at home for the West Indies tour earlier this year.
But it could also be argued that much like Potts has benefitted from England’s injury woes among their fast bowlers, so too have the 39-year-old Anderson and 35-year-old Broad, with both having had legitimate concerns over their Test futures following their controversial omission from the Caribbean.
Hussain does not see it that way, saying of the pair’s return to the Test fold: “I think it should have been inevitable anyway regardless of whether other bowlers were injured or not.
“They’re two of England’s greatest ever bowlers and were bowling pretty well when they were left out, in fact exceptionally well in the case of Jimmy Anderson.
“Jimmy has found has some form with Lancashire, Stuart Broad has played a couple of games so I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do if they were available.”
The deadly duo combine for a staggering 1,177 Test wickets, with Anderson (640 wickets) the third-leading wicket-taker of all-time and Broad (537) sixth on that same storied list.
They are England’s two greatest ever Test bowlers and, as remarkable exponents of the Dukes ball in home conditions, they undoubtedly give them the best chance to win the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s on June 2.
Who else could challenge?
Among the leading contenders to push his way into the England squad is Lancashire leg-spinner Matt Parkinson, who had been tipped to potentially replace Somerset slow left-armer Jack Leach in the group to face New Zealand.
Parkinson, who has still to make his Test debut, has taken 23 wickets at an average of 23.48 in Division One this year, compared to Leach who has 11 wickets at 19.55
Lancashire’s Josh Bohannon is an option amid the search for batting stability at the top of the order in a season where he has impressed with an average of 61.60 in five games batting at No 3. Sam Robson has amassed 318 runs at 63.60 in seven games as Middlesex’s opener and James Bracey of Gloucestershire also remains a possible alternative despite a difficult time against New Zealand in his debut series last year.
There is also Sussex opener Tom Haines, leading run-scorer in the County Championship last year, who averages more than 50 in this campaign including a career-best 243, while Rory Burns and Dom Sibley are both still hopeful of a recall having shown flashes of their best form this summer for Surrey and Warwickshire respectively.
“There’s some seriously talented cricketers in this country and we just need to unlock that and get them playing to the best of their ability,” said Key.
“I’m hoping and betting on the fact people like Brendon McCullum, Ben Stokes and a clear vision of how we’re going to play is the way to do that. We want them to go through our system.
“I get the feeling sometimes people think a Brendon McCullum era of cricket is going to be about people who run down the pitch from ball one and try and bat exactly like he did. It’s not at all, actually, he’s pretty clear on his philosophy.
“He wants people that their default position is looking to score runs as a batsman, who can transfer pressure back onto the bowler when needed but also have the courage, fortitude and temperament to be able to soak up pressure when that’s needed.
“Bowlers who can take wickets and are prepared to change to plan to make sure they get each batsman and player on the opposition out and fielders who chase the ball hard to the boundary at all times.
“That’s sort of it really. That’s how we want to play winning cricket, that’s the philosophy we think that will turn us into a winning Test match team.”
Source : Sky Sports