Eng vs NZ 2021 – James Bracey, Ollie Robinson in line for Test debuts as England name 15-man squad
James Bracey, the Gloucestershire wicketkeeper-batter, and Ollie Robinson, the Sussex seamer, are in line for Test debuts against New Zealand next month, after being named in England’s 15-man squad for the two-match series against New Zealand, starting at Lord’s on June 2.
Both players have been rewarded for their patience in travelling as reserves during England’s bio-secures campaigns during the Covid pandemic, as well as for their impressive starts to the county season. Bracey has scored 478 runs at 53.11 to help lift Gloucestershire to the top of the County Championship Group 2 standings, while Robinson has taken 29 wickets at 14.72 for Sussex, including a career-best haul of 9 for 78 against Glamorgan.
There is also a recall for Somerset’s seam-bowling allrounder Craig Overton, who played the most recent of his four Tests against Australia in the 2019 Ashes. He too has been in fine form this summer with 32 wickets at 13.96, including five-fors in each of his last three outings.
The squad is the first to have been chosen by the ECB’s new selection panel, led by the head coach Chris Silverwood, following the decision to part company with the former national selector Ed Smith last month.
“James Bracey and Ollie Robinson deserve their call ups to the Test squad,” Silverwood said. “They have been consistent performers in the County Championship this season and over the past 18 months, have excelled for the Lions on the field and in the various camps they have been involved in.
“Having spent all winter and last summer in the company of our established Test players, they have immersed themselves in preparing and understanding what it takes to play at this level. The environment and culture will be something they are used to, and should they be in a position to make their Test debuts, they will be ready to showcase their skills.
“They are both resilient characters and have demonstrated to me, the captain and coaches that they have the desire, temperament and the ability to continually improve to give themselves every chance of succeeding on the international stage.”
Bracey’s and Robinson’s opportunities come, in part, due to the decision to rest England’s contingent of IPL players, who have recently completed their quarantine periods following the postponement of the tournament earlier this month.
Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes will link up with their counties after a period of down time, ahead of the white-ball series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka as well as the five-match Test series against India, while both Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer were out of the reckoning due to their respective injuries.
Archer may have to undergo surgery on his right elbow after failing to complete his first-class comeback for Sussex against Kent last week, but Stokes is progressing well from his fractured left index finger that he sustained while diving for a catch during the IPL, and is set to return to action next month for Durham in the Vitality Blast – his first game at county level since 2018.
“Jofra Archer is to see a consultant this week to understand the severity of his right elbow injury,” Silverwood said. “He struggled in Sussex’s Championship fixture last week and he wasn’t able to bowl on the final two days of the match. We need to get this resolved once and for all to give him the best chance of being fully fit as we build up to an intense winter, which will include a T20 World Cup and the Ashes. We need him firing in all formats of the game.
“Ben Stokes is making excellent progress following his fractured left index finger sustained last month in the Indian Premier League,” he added. “If he continues to improve without any impact on his rehabilitation, we could see him return next month for Durham in the Vitality Blast competition. We will assess him again towards the end of this month.
“As for the players who have just come out of quarantine after the cancelled IPL, we felt it necessary for them to have an extended break. We need them to recharge mentally. We will then take a view when they return to cricket. It will mean that they will get some competitive matches with their respective counties either in the LV= Insurance County Championship or the Vitality Blast next month. We will work closely with each individual on when they are likely to play again.”
The squad is due to convene in London on Friday, May 28, five days ahead of the Lord’s Test, starting June 2. The second Test, at Edgbaston, gets underway on June 10.
“This is the start of our international summer and an exceptionally long winter, so we are mindful that we need the players ready both physically and mentally,” Silverwood said. “Understanding players’ needs are paramount in our planning and something that will continually develop across the year leading into the World Cup and Ashes campaigns.
“The summer of Test cricket will be fascinating,” he added. “Playing the top two teams in the world, in New Zealand and India, is perfect preparation for us as we continue to improve and progress towards an Ashes series in Australia at the back end of the year.
“With several players not available through injury or being rested for the New Zealand series, it is an opportunity for us to reward those who have been on the fringes of England squads over the past 12 months.”
England squad: Joe Root (capt), James Anderson, James Bracey, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Dom Sibley, Olly Stone, Mark Wood
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket