Uncapped duo Ollie Robinson and James Bracey have been named in England’s Test squad to face New Zealand next month, while there is a recall for Craig Overton.
With Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer out injured and five more players rested following their recent return from the Indian Premier League, England were always likely to cast their net wider for the two-match series against the Black Caps.
The trio have made compelling cases for inclusion in a 15-man squad, the first since head coach Chris Silverwood took over selection responsibilities from the axed Ed Smith.
Archer’s Sussex team-mate Robinson and Gloucestershire wicketkeeper-batsman Bracey have both spent long periods working directly with the Test squad over the past year, travelling and training with the side as reserves in extended team bubbles at home and abroad.
They have each left a positive impression in terms of ability and attitude and their promotion nudges them one step closer to a Test debut.
Overton won the last of his four Test caps in the 2019 Ashes but has grown in status with Somerset in the intervening period, starring in last year’s Bob Willis Trophy and the ongoing LV= Insurance County Championship.
The 27-year-old has more wickets than any other fast bowler in the competition, claiming 32 at an average of 13.96. Robinson sits second on the list with 29 at 14.72.
With Stokes, Archer, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran among the absentees, they join Mark Wood and Olly Stone in a seam attack led by the evergreen duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Bracey averages over 50 batting at three for Gloucestershire this year and is included primarily as a top-order option, with Dom Sibley only just ready to return from a broken finger. He will also cover gloveman Ben Foakes, who is in line for his first home Test alongside Essex batsman Dan Lawrence.
“James Bracey and Ollie Robinson deserve their call-ups to the Test squad. It is an opportunity for us to reward those who have been on the fringes of England squads over the past 12 months,” Silverwood said.
“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.
“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.
“One thing we’ve talked about is to try and get to the point where we’re not debuting anybody in Australia (this winter). It’s been a plan now for a while and we have given different people different experiences. We’re banking that all the way to the Ashes, really.”
On the conspicuous lack of a proven all-rounder, Silverwood admitted a reframing of the XI may be the only way to prevent a worryingly lengthy tail. The likeliest outcome is six specialist batsmen, a keeper and a four-man attack.
“If we look at it with the guys that are missing – Stokes, Woakes, Curran – it does leave a gap in the batting order,” he said.
“Whichever way we cover the team up this time it could look a little imbalanced. But the options are there for us. But the exciting thing is these guys are fantastic cricketers and are going to get an opportunity now, which really excites me.”
Silverwood also offered an update on the injured parties. Stokes is well on track in his recovery and should return during Durham’s Vitality Blast campaign but Archer’s prognosis remains opaque as he prepares to see a consultant over his troublesome right elbow.
He said: “I feel for Jofra. So far he’s done everything we’ve asked of him to try and get into a good position to get back playing again and that hasn’t worked so we’ve just got to take the next step now: find out what the consultants will say.
“The best thing we can do is stay calm at this moment in time, support Jofra and make sure he gets all the help he needs to get him back. We all want Jofra fit and firing on the park.
“For Ben it’ll be a slow return. We’re potentially looking at the T20 Blast for Durham and then a gradual build back into international cricket. He has started bowling again and he’s not far off hitting a few balls as well. He’s progressing nicely and on course for where we expected him to be.”
England will link up in London on May 28 ahead of the first Test at Lord’s five days later, with the second Test at Edgbaston from June 10.