Eng vs NZ 2021 – James Bracey, Ollie Robinson, Craig Overton

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Strong competition among seamers for first Test but balancing XI could be an issue

England’s international summer of cricket is almost upon us and ECB selectors – that’s basically Chris Silverwood with some help from James Taylor and Mo Bobat – are poised to announce the men’s squad to face New Zealand in their two-Test series starting on June 2 at Lord’s. Here, George Dobell takes a look at those in the running.

Top order

England are likely to pick four men who are seen as contenders for the top three: Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Rory Burns and James Bracey. While Sibley is just coming back from a broken finger – he is playing a 2nd XI match at present – the England management are confident he will be fine and he has enough credit in the bank to retain his place.

Of the four, Burns is perhaps the least certain of a spot. Having been dropped in India, he is not “in possession” and with England wanting to take a look at Bracey, he could be squeezed. But he has been in consistent form in the Championship (only Kiran Carlson has reached 50 more often than his five occasions this season) and is seen as being relatively well equipped for the Ashes.

The form of Haseeb Hameed (and, to a lesser extent, Adam Lyth) has been noted by the England management, but he will need to sustain it a while longer to win a Test recall. If a Lions squad was required tomorrow, however, he would have an excellent chance of involvement.

Middle order

With Joe Root and Ollie Pope assured of their places, England have to decide whether to play Bracey in the middle-order or stick with Dan Lawrence. Both will be in the squad.

Wicketkeeping

With Jos Buttler resting, Ben Foakes looks likely to keep the gloves and play his first home Tests. Bracey is also a more than competent keeper and provides back-up if required. Pope’s brief career as a Test keeper – remember the Hamilton Test of 2019? – would appear to be over.