@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read
The first Test squad of the Ben Stokes-Brendon McCullum era is here, but some things will never change.
With any squad, there will always be players disappointed, having put up strong cases only to be overlooked, and with only 13 players named for the first two Tests against New Zealand – it had been reported that a squad of up to 17 might be picked – the potential for frustration is only increased.
England Test squad to face New Zealand: Ben Stokes (c), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Jack Leach, Alex Lees, Craig Overton, Matty Potts, Ollie Pope, Joe Root.
Seven players unlucky to miss out on England’s Test squad to face New Zealand
A regular cause celebre for England fans, Matt Parkinson is one of two non-fitness-related casualties from the West Indies squad, despite not playing a game on that tour and being the leading English wicket-taker in Division One of the 2022 County Championship. Jack Leach, who enjoyed a solid if unspectacular tour of the Caribbean and burst into life in the most recent round of the County Championship, has been backed as England’s No.1 spinner, and Parkinson has therefore been spared bib-wearing duties.
The other player dropped from the West Indies squad is Dan Lawrence. He had a poor start to the County Championship season, without a half-century in five innings, before a hamstring injury sidelined him, but also made 91 two Tests ago. The benefit of the doubt which has aided Zak Crawley, a Test centurion in the West Indies but another who has had a horror County Championship campaign so far, has not been extended to Lawrence.
While it’s tempting to decry England’s lack of options in a similar-looking squad, there have been several who have put their hands up at the start of the County Championship season. Not least, Middlesex’s Sam Robson, who hardly disgraced himself in his 2014 stint in the Test side, and has been one of the English game’s most consistent run-scorers in the interim.
Another to impress at the start of this season is Dawid Malan, who has crossed 50 four times, 150 once, and is yet to be dismissed for less than 20. He was after failing to pass 25 in the last three Tests of the 2021/22 Ashes, but there are plenty of mitigating circumstances for that poor patch of form, and up until the Ashes were surrendered, he had impressed on his recall with an average of 42 and three 70-plus scores in four Tests. Aged 34, Malan’s time in a Test shirt might now have come and gone. Given England are set to push Ollie Pope to No.3, a position in which he has never batted in first-class cricket, Malan would be within his rights to feel aggrieved.
A rising star in the County Championship, Josh Bohannon averages 45.77 in first-class cricket, and made a half-century for England Lions against Australia A during the winter. However, he is still relatively inexperienced having scored just four first-class centuries, and has only passed 50 once in the County Championship this season, although he did go on to make 231 on that occasion. Should he keep doing what he has been, his time will surely come.
One thing England’s squad lacks, with Olly Stone, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood all injured, is a proper out-and-out speedster, a gap Jamie Overton could have filled. He has been clocked bowling at north of 145kph this season, and has the numbers to back up the speed, with 16 wickets at 22.75, while a batting average of 61.66 shows he could bolster England’s tail. Overton has long been one of the standout bowlers in the country – even including a poor year in 2021, he averages 24.71 with the ball in England since the start of 2016 – and this could have been a chance to look at a potential point-of-difference bowler.
For Sam Cook, it’s hard to tell when a chance is gonna come. When you’re trying to get past Stuart Broad and James Anderson for the role of ‘English-style seamer’, it’s hard to feel truly hard done by, but with England’s fast bowling stocks depleted, this might have been Cook’s best chance for an England call-up. In six full English summers (including 2022) Cook has taken 171 wickets at 19.73, with the average dropping to 16.48 since the start of 2020.