Ollie Robinson in line to be one of England’s ‘new faces’ for Test series against New Zealand
Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer injured. Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes set to be rested after their IPL stints.
England’s Test squad to face New Zealand – which is to be announced on Tuesday – will look a little different.
Here, we assess those in the running to be the ‘new faces’ Ashley Giles spoke of last week, with some eyeing Test debuts against the Kiwis and others Test comebacks…
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CRAIG OVERTON (SOMERSET)
A new old face, if you will. Seam bowler Overton has played four Tests for England, including three in the winter of 2017-18 during which time he made Australia’s Steve Smith his maiden Test wicket in Adelaide and then scored over half of England’s runs – 33 to be precise – from the No 9 spot when they were rolled for 58 by New Zealand in a pink-ball game in Auckland.
Overton’s bowling figures over the last few years have been excellent. The paceman snared 30 wickets in six games at an average of 13.43 in last year’s Bob Willis Trophy as Somerset reached the final, while he has picked up 32 in five matches in this term’s County Championship at 13.96.
Overton has also scored two half-centuries, which could make him an even more attractive proposition for England if they are concerned about their lower-order batting with Curran and Woakes set to sit out the series.
OLLIE ROBINSON (SUSSEX)
Robinson came into the 2021 season having amassed 159 wickets in 30 games at an average of 17.59 across the past three campaigns – and he has continued to excel this term, bagging 29 scalps in five fixtures at 14.72 including a match haul of 13-128 against Northamptonshire
Accurate, skilful and quick enough, Robinson has been backed by Sky Sports’ David Lloyd to make a Test debut this summer, while the man himself told Sky Sports last year, shortly before he entered the enlarged England bubble, that he feels he can succeed James Anderson when the side’s all-time leading wicket-taker eventually calls it quits.
There is a good chance Robinson will be playing alongside his idol Anderson over the coming months, with his ability to notch lower-order runs – like Overton, he has managed two half-centuries this term – another tick.
JAMES BRACEY (GLOUCESTERSHIRE)
If a batsman is to make their England Test bow this summer, the most likely candidate is Bracey, who seems to be competing with Rory Burns, Zak Crawley and – if fit – Dom Sibley for a spot in England’s top three. If Bracey makes the cut, he would become the first frontline Gloucestershire batsman to play Test cricket for England since 1988.
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The left-hander, Gloucestershire’s No 3, has passed fifty in five of his 10 knocks this season – he went on to make 118 versus Somerset in round two, while he also notched a classy 75 against Middlesex live on Sky Sports.
Wicketkeeping is Bracey’s other job – he marries those duties with batting high up the order for his county – and so is an option behind the sticks, though Ben Foakes looks set to take the gloves in Buttler’s absence.
MATT PARKINSON (LANCASHIRE)
It was a trying winter for the Lancashire leg-spinner. He was the only man to be with the England touring party for the entire Sri Lanka and India trips – yet did not make a single appearance, bar in an internal warm-up game.
The start of the English summer has been much more enjoyable for the 24-year-old with 19 wickets in four games at an average below 20. Parkinson claimed a seven-wicket haul in the innings win over Kent at Canterbury but it was the delivery that accounted for Northamptonshire’s Adam Rossington at Emirates Old Trafford that garnered most attention.
Parkinson pitched a ball outside leg and turned it back sharply to clip Rossington’s off stump, evoking memories of Shane Warne’s ‘Ball of the Century’ to Mike Gatting on the same ground in 1993. So, what was Parkinson’s plan? “Sack it, I’m gonna try and rip it,” he said!
Jack Leach perhaps stands in Parkinson’s way of adding a maiden Test cap to his four white-ball appearances for England but the Lancashire leggie seems a decent shout for a place in the squad at least.
HASEEB HAMEED (NOTTINGHAMSHIRE)
Hameed, a former team-mate of Parkinson’s at Old Trafford, has shown signs of a career revival since moving to Trent Bridge. The opening batsman, now 24, impressed for England in India in 2016 while still a teenager, scoring two fifties in three Tests, including one with a broken finger, but then suffered an alarming dip in form and was released by Lancashire in 2019.
Three fifties for Notts in last year’s Bob Willis Trophy hinted at a sustained return to form and in the early part of this campaign the right-hander came close to three hundreds in four innings, making 94 against Derbyshire in the game after he scored twin tons against Worcestershire.
It is probably too soon for Hameed, who is averaging 56 for the season, to return to the England side just yet but he is getting himself back on the radar. Sky Sports’ Michael Atherton said: “I’ve always felt that if you play as well as he did on that India tour a few years ago as a 19-year-old, it’s in you and it will come back eventually given the right time and the right circumstances. Fingers crossed he comes again.”
Sticking with opening batsmen, and Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth and Worcestershire’s Jake Libby may warrant at least a passing mention. Lyth – who played seven Tests for England in 2015, with a century against New Zealand on his home turf of Headingley – has plundered 538 runs.
Libby, meanwhile, has followed up being the second-highest run-scorer in the Bob Willis Trophy in 2020 – behind only Sir Alastair Cook – by amassing 545 runs this term, during which he played the second-longest innings in the history of the County Championship, having batted for 11 hours and 21 minutes while making an unbeaten 180 against Essex.
As for all-rounders, the standout in terms of stats is Gloucestershire’s Ryan Higgins, who has captured 28 wickets in five games at an average of 18.03 and chipped in with 229 runs at an average over 30 but, speaking to Cricinfo recently, the 26-year-old said he feels his lack of pace – he bowls at around 77mph – means he will “probably have to do a bit more”.
Watch the first Test between New Zealand and England live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.30am on Wednesday, June 2.
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