@Yas_Wisden 4 minute read
England are expected to name the first Test squad of the new Stokes-McCullum era early next week.
They are reportedly set to pick a group as large as 17 ahead of the first Test of the summer, against New Zealand at Lord’s.
With a number of injuries, changes in personnel and a long stretch of County Championship action to judge form on, working out the identities of the seamers who might make that squad is not a straightforward exercise.
Here’s a look at the bowlers in the frame:
New captain Ben Stokes has publicly affirmed his desire to have Stuart Broad and James Anderson return to the fold after the pair were omitted from England’s squad for the ill-fated tour of West Indies earlier this year. England’s two greatest Test wicket-takers are both fit and have been back in action for their county sides, with Anderson making three Lancashire appearances and Broad playing twice for Nottinghamshire.
Chris Woakes, who struggled to make an impact with the ball in the Caribbean but boasts a formidable record in home Tests, is not expected to regain full fitness in time for the first New Zealand fixture so is unlikely to be named in the squad. Mark Wood and Matt Fisher are two others who featured in the West Indies series and are currently out injured; Wood will definitely miss the New Zealand Tests but there remains hope that Fisher regains full fitness in the next few weeks.
The current state of Ollie Robinson’s fitness is harder to ascertain from afar. Robinson didn’t play in the Caribbean amid concerns over his general level of fitness and has only played twice so far in this year’s County Championship after suffering from a dental infection. In his second appearance of the season, an upset stomach restricted him to a single first innings over. He recovered to bowl 20 overs in the second innings, though some of these were off-spin rather than his customary right-arm seam.
The emergence of Saqib Mahmood at Test level was one of the few positives for England in the West Indies but the skiddy right-arm quick has featured in just one game for Lancashire so far this season. Craig Overton, who played twice in the Caribbean, has been in typically excellent form for Somerset in 2022, claiming 22 wickets at 18.50 with only Hassan Ali ahead of him in the Division One wicket-taking charts. Liam Norwell, who was reportedly England’s non-travelling reserve for the West Indies tour, has only played one County Championship game this season due to injury and concussion.
Woakes, Wood and Fisher aren’t the only bowlers who are out injured. Jofra Archer and Olly Stone are yet to make their first team returns following their lengthy injury lay-offs while Sam Curran is still having his bowling workload managed after a stress fracture in his lower back sidelined him for the entirety of England’s winter. He is another who has turned to finger-spin at times.
Given the length of England’s injury list, it is not that unlikely that someone who didn’t even make the England Lions squad for the winter tour of Australia is named in the first Test squad of the summer. Durham’s 23-year-old seamer Matty Potts has lit up this season’s County Championship and is the competition’s leading wicket-taker by some margin. Sharp and capable of extracting life from flat pitches, he is reportedly in the frame for selection.
Another option could be Jamie Overton. The Surrey quick has long been thought of as a potential international cricketer and two years after leaving Taunton, Overton is finding his feet at The Oval in some style. Of bowlers to take 15 or more Division One wickets this season, only his twin Craig boasts a lower strike rate. Jamie has reportedly been clocked at over 90mph already this season and is also averaging over 60 with the bat so could provide England with another option to bat at eight in the absence of Woakes and Curran.