England released their 15-man squad for the tour of New Zealand today. It is, of course, different from the one I would have selected. But it’s still a strong one overall and England are clearly taking the Kiwis seriously, which is good. Failures in South Africa notwithstanding, they do pose a threat with their bowling and can pull off an upset.
The biggest aspect is that Tim Bresnan has been dropped in favour of Chris Woakes. Apparently Bresnan is going to have more work done on his elbow; it’s clearly not been right since he had surgery on it a year ago. I had him in my squad of 15, but if there is something that actually can be done for his elbow then I’m glad they are trying that instead. I’m not entirely sold on replacing him with Woakes though. Woakes is talented, but I think a bit too much is made of his all-rounder tag. I view him as a bowler who can bat; he tends to come in well down the order for Warwickshire and he has a first-class batting average under forty. It does make him a bit of a like-for-like replacement for Bresnan and he’s certainly a good bowler, but I don’t think he’s better than Stuart Meaker as a bowler and that is who I would have picked after Bresnan. I don’t think batting ability should come into it unless a player is so good with the bat that he could be picked on it alone. For Woakes this clearly isn’t the case so it should only be a matter of who is the better bowler and I think it’s Meaker.
Eoin Morgan and Samit Patel have both dropped out as expected, but it hasn’t opened the door for James Taylor as I would have liked. Taylor will be captaining the England Lions instead, but I think he can count himself horribly unlucky. He did little wrong against South Africa; he had one good innings and one bad innings before being run out by Matt Prior at Lord’s. But he was left out of the tour to India behind Morgan (inexplicably) and to accommodate the horses-for-courses selection of Samit Patel. Now that they are both out Taylor should be back in the frame, but instead he seems to have been all-but-forgot with Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root ahead of him.
The squad that is selected is a strong one overall and it doesn’t leave much doubt about the likely XI. Unless there is another injury before the series starts (and I’m not delighted with England risking Broad in the one day series ahead of the Tests) the only real battle should be for the number six spot and it looks like Root will go into it as the strong favourite. We’ll know for sure in just over a month.