England’s red-ball new dawn has seen two uncapped 23-year-olds get their first chance of international glory and second chances handed to the country’s two most experienced bowlers of all time, as the team seeks to improve their recently moribund fortunes under the stewardship of Brendon McCullum.
As widely trailed by the side’s new captain, Ben Stokes, the 13-man squad for the first two Tests of a three-match series against McCullum’s compatriots from New Zealand, at Lord’s and Trent Bridge next month, features both James Anderson and Stuart Broad, first and third respectively on England’s all-time most-capped list.
They return to the fold after being left out of the squad that toured West Indies in March, while England have a lengthy list of injury-enforced absentees among the bowlers, with the recently food-poisoned Ollie Robinson not considered fit for selection.
Yorkshire’s Harry Brook, who with 758 runs across eight County Championship innings at an average of 151.6 has been the outstanding domestic batter of the English summer so far, gets his first Test call-up – he made his T20 debut in January – alongside Durham’s Matthew Potts, whose current haul of 35 wickets is 11 more than any other bowler in either division.
Rob Key, the managing director of England men’s cricket, said the pair had been “rewarded for outstanding starts to the County season and deserve an opportunity to stake a claim at this level”.
Most recently Potts took 11 wickets as Durham beat Glamorgan last week, posting career-best figures of seven for 40 in the second innings. “I tend not to try and read them too much,” he said after that game of reports suggesting he was in line for a Test call-up. “It would be a dream to be picked and obviously to play Test cricket is something I aspire to do.”
New Zealand won the inaugural World Test Championship last year, when they also at times outclassed England in winning a two-match Test series, and currently sit third in the Test rankings, well ahead of the sixth-placed English side, but Key said he expected this year’s meetings to be closely contested.
“This is the start of a new era for our Test team under the stewardship of Ben and Brendon,” he said. “With a blend of youth and experience, we have selected an exciting squad that can compete with New Zealand. It promises to be a mouthwatering series, and I can’t wait for the team to start against a very good New Zealand side. It is a fascinating prospect for everyone connected with the sport in this country.”
The squad was selected by a six-man panel comprised of Key, McCullum and Stokes as well as the ECB’s performance director, Mo Bobat, the head scout, James Taylor, and the player identification lead, David Court.
England Test squad: Ben Stokes (Durham, captain), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonathan Bairstow (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Harry Brook (Yorkshire), Zak Crawley (Kent), Ben Foakes (Surrey), Jack Leach (Somerset), Alex Lees (Durham), Craig Overton (Somerset), Matthew Potts (Durham), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Joe Root (Yorkshire).