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New Zealand v England

Lawrence and Stone back, Rehan Ahmed ‘managed’ – Six takeaways from England’s Test squad for New Zealand

Dan Lawrence of England bats during day five of the 2nd test match between West Indies and England at Kensington Oval
by Katya Witney 3 minute read

England have named a 15-player squad for their two Test match tour of New Zealand in February 2023. Here are the key takeaways from the announcement.

The series is not part of the World Test Championship, and both sides are already out of contention in that competition. But it will serve as an important part of England’s Ashes build-up, and there are several points of interest from the group selected.

England squad for New Zealand Tests: Ben Stokes (c), James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes, Will Jacks, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Matthew Potts, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Olly Stone.


The takeaways from England’s Test squad v New Zealand

Lawrence is back

The biggest talking point to come out of the squad announcement is the return of Dan Lawrence for the first time since England’s tour of the Caribbean in early 2022. Despite scoring 91 and 41 off 39 balls in Bridgetown, Lawrence wasn’t selected for the opening matches of England’s home summer following Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum’s takeover. A run of poor form for Essex, for whom he averaged 22.10 across 12 County Championship games this summer, combined with hamstring injuries have kept him out of the England reckoning until now.

In the continued absence of Jonny Bairstow and with no backup specialist opener, Lawrence looks a one-size-fits-all selection as batting cover for any of the top six. He opened the batting for Essex (in 2015 when he was 18) and has batted as high as three for England, with three of his 11 caps featuring him batting down at No.6. An effervescent, energetic batter, he should fit right into the new regime.

Jennings out

Jennings finished the domestic summer as Division One’s leading run-scorer in the County Championship, wracking up five centuries including a triple. Selection for England’s tour of Pakistan was just reward for his unignorable weight of runs. But Ben Duckett and Zak Crawley’s centuries in the first innings of the tour and four subsequent fifties between them were enough to keep Jennings carrying the drinks. While his proficiency against spin undoubtedly had a hand in his selection for the series and Duckett’s aggressive style clearly suits the McCullum-Stokes approach more, Jennings will still have been hoping to be viewed as an all-conditions option.

The return of Olly Stone

Say it quietly, but England’s fast bowling injury crisis might finally be coming to an end. Jofra Archer will be back for England’s limited-overs tour of South Africa in January and, while he’s been rested from this squad, Mark Wood played the whole of the T20 World Cup and two consecutive Test matches this winter. Stone has managed just three Tests in his England career, which has been repeatedly derailed by injuries including four stress fractures of his back. Without Wood, Stone’s pace will be England’s point of difference in their pace attack, giving a 90mph+ option on potentially seamer-friendly New Zealand pitches.

Overton slips down the pecking order

Stuart Broad’s return from paternity leave as well as Matt Potts’ recall to the squad means there is no room for Jamie Overton, who spent the Pakistan tour on the sidelines. After a brilliant summer, leaving Potts out for Pakistan felt harsh, but his re-inclusion in New Zealand will give him a chance to prove his worth once more on pitches which should suit his style, especially with a day/night Test included in the schedule. With Stone fit and Archer making steps towards Test match availability again, when Wood, Broad, Anderson and Potts are all available, both Overtons now look to be slipping down the list of England’s bowler rankings.

Rehan Ahmed is being ‘managed’

Despite his unforgettable Test debut, there is little surprise that Rehan Ahmed will not feature in back-to-back series. The final Test in Karachi was the perfect place to hand the teenager a debut, with the series already wrapped up and favourable conditions for a wrist-spinner. New Zealand would have been a tougher challenge, one that would require a holding spinner if one is needed at all. Nevertheless, the squad announcement did give an insight into how England are looking to manage the 18-year-old, who will feature in the ILT20 before his possible selection for the ODI and T20I tour to Bangladesh in March.

Ahmed isn’t the only member of the squad set for T20 franchise competitions as part of their development over the winter. Joe Root will also play in the ILT20 over England’s white-ball tour to South Africa before flying out to New Zealand, while Will Jacks will play in the South Africa T20 league as well as the ODIs and T20Is in the country.

Jacks is now England’s second spinner

From being behind Liam Livingstone in the selectors’ eyes for the first match in Pakistan to now being England’s outright second spinner, it’s been a breakthrough winter for Jacks. If it wasn’t for the virus which swept through the England squad in the days before the first Test, it may have been a different story. But, after taking his maiden five-for on debut, Jacks will be England’s backup spin option in New Zealand. The added value he offers with the bat obviously helps his selection, but from being considered a part-timer only 12 months ago to now resembling a new Moeen Ali, it’s been quite a year for Jacks.

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