Tomorrow England will announce their touring party for the three Tests in New Zealand in March. I don’t think there will be any great surprises, but I am keen to see how they decide to pick players on the first tour to more English conditions after the loss to South Africa last summer. As I mentioned a few days ago, Nick Compton ought to retain his spot in the playing XI and although Joe Root will certainly be on the plane I would play him either at six or not at all. It’s also already been confirmed that it will be a 15-man squad with Jonny Bairstow as reserve wicket-keeper.
It is the question of who to bat at six which I think will dominate the squad discussions and lone warmup, though now at least it is because England have many good options instead of none. But they still have both Root and Bairstow and neither have done anything to be dropped and really neither has James Taylor. England seemed to forget about him when naming the side to tour India and I’d like to see him recalled for the series in New Zealand. Samit Patel will presumably be missing out after his poor performance in India and Eoin Morgan should definitely be dropped as well, but with the squad size being cut overall I think Taylor may still miss out. I would have him on the plane though, as injury cover if nothing else. The selectors need to keep him in the picture though even if he does miss out; I thought he looked perfectly capable in the two Tests against South Africa that he played and I think that if England had gone to New Zealand before India he would be in the squad.
The bowling can’t be completely ignored though. There is still the nagging doubts about Stuart Broad’s fitness after his latest injury kept him out of the ODIs in India. He’ll be in the squad, of course, but England should have a plan in place in case he gets injured again. It’s tempting to want to add another bowler as cover (Stuart Meaker the likely candidate), but England do have four other fast bowlers who can expect to be on the plane which should be enough and possibly even more than enough. I would drop Panesar from the squad though as spin is unlikely to play a major role and Root and Kevin Pietersen should be all England need to support Swann. I would either just leave his spot empty (the squad is being cut by three players compared to the India one) or replace him with a batsman.
My squad in full would then be:
Cook*, Anderson, Bairstow, Bell, Bresnan, Broad, Compton, Finn, Onions, Pietersen, Prior, Root, Swann, Taylor, Trott