First England Test squad shows Stokes values balance in his selection
So this is it, the first Test squad of the Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum era. Amid the goings on in and around the English set-up, we’ve been treated to a squad for – at least – the opening two Tests against New Zealand.
Captain Stokes has recalled the dynamic bowling duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad into his 13-man squad. The pair have a combined age of 74 and have taken over 1,150 wickets between them.
It came as a shock to many to see them dropped for the tour of the West Indies – which England lost 2-1 – and their return to the squad marks a level of trust Stokes has in the senior bowlers.
Stokes, too, has maintained his faith in run-scoring former captain Joe Root and the upcoming Test series will see the Yorkshireman return to his preferred batting spot of No4.
So, there’s an essence of the squad being back together again but in reality England simply couldn’t have moved forward without them.
Managing director of men’s cricket Rob Key has insisted this is a new start for the Test team, but that doesn’t mean an overhaul for the sake of one.
Anderson and Broad are getting on in age, and will need to be managed, but their absence has been felt and they’ll offer the squad a lot more in mentoring than they’ll take in using up a precious space in the squad.
“This is the start of a new era for our Test team under the stewardship of Ben and Brendon,” Key said. “With a blend of youth and experience, we have selected an exciting squad that can compete with New Zealand in next month’s Test series.”
But along with the old guard come the new recruits. Yorkshire’s Harry Brook is in fine domestic form, averaging over 150 per innings and scoring more than 750 runs in just eight matches.
The 23-year-old made his Twenty20 debut in January and will be looking to cement a spot in England’s batting order.
He’s in luck, too, because the national side are yet to settle on a middle order so there’s room for Brook to elbow his way into a permanent spot.
Without the likes of Jos Buttler and Liam Livingstone too – who is a short-form specialist many see as a potential Test player – he could shine.
With the ball, Stokes has opted to include fellow Durham player Matthew Potts. Aged 23, like Brook, Potts has been the leading wicket-taker in the domestic game – albeit in the second division – with 35 wickets.
One surprise is the omission of Matt Parkinson. His exclusion is baffling given he was involved in the West Indies squad while not playing a Test. He offers a lot with the ball and has solid variation – something Stokes may rue missing out on against the Kiwis.
So in Stokes’s first England squad as captain, there are fresh faces and familiar ones. But the judgements will be passed not on who made it and who didn’t, but on whether the squad selected turns around a seriously underwhelming series of results.