New Zealand in England 2013 May 10, 2013

Familiar England set for first test

Despite an indifferent conclusion to England's overseas winter in New Zealand, the selectors are unlikely to see the need for significant changes for the start of the home summer that will be dominated by the Ashes but firstly includes the return series against Australia's close neighbours.

One major figure will be missing, but another is set to return. Kevin Pietersen's right knee, which forced him to miss the final Test in Auckland, continues to be a problem and he will not be available for England duty until at least the start of the Ashes and even that must be shrouded in doubt with the injury proving more problematic than had been envisaged in March.

In New Zealand, where a drawn series was salvaged by Matt Prior's hundred in Auckland, England were also without Graeme Swann and his absence left a hole equal to that of Pietersen's. Swann's elbow surgery in the USA has, so far, proved a success and his return for Nottinghamshire has been tentatively encouraging although there must be questions over whether his workload - one Championship game and two YB40 matches - has been enough to really test the recovery.

Still, his return in place of Monty Panesar - always a bowler more comfortable operating in tandem rather than solo - appears a matter of course. The summer ahead will place a huge burden on Swann, and there do not appear many obvious gaps for a rest, so in every sense it is make or break for his right elbow.

Pietersen's absence from the middle order will be filled again by Jonny Bairstow, who was drafted into the final Test at Eden Park having played one first-class innings since last September. His twin failures were predictable, and understandable, but he has impressed at the start of this season for Yorkshire and should have done enough to ward off his nearest challengers, which include England Lions team-mates James Taylor (despite him not being named in the performance squad) and Ravi Bopara who is back in favour with the selectors in one-day cricket.

Bairstow will also have fond memories of Lord's, the scene of his Test debut against West Indies last year and also his most convincing Test performance, when he made 95 and 54 against South Africa after, again, being an understudy for Pietersen. His technique has, at times, been picked apart at Test level but that is a rite of passage for young player.

Perhaps the most interesting names in the squad will be the extra pace bowlers included alongside the current trio of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn. The latter, according to reports from the County Championship, has not quite hit top form for Middlesex and following on from the tour of New Zealand he has now usurped Broad as the man under most pressure for his place.

In New Zealand, questions started to be asked about the true depth of England's back-up quicks. Graham Onions' form fell apart in Queenstown while Chris Woakes did not convince that he was ready to be a third seamer for a Test match. Onions, as he was always likely to do, has returned to wicket-taking form for Durham (he is currently the leading wicket-taker in Division One) but whether that means he remains a viable Test option is another issue. The difference in level between Championship and Test cricket is distinct, as it should be.

The odds favour Onions being retained in the squad and if England name 13 in the party for Lord's it could open the way for a return for Tim Bresnan who, like Swann, underwent elbow surgery earlier this year. He has made an encouraging start to the season with Yorkshire, taking 11 wickets at 27.63, and while there may be a clamour for the selectors to go for a younger option - such as Woakes or Toby Roland-Jones - Bresnan has retained the support of the England management. While it is clearly true there were times in the last 12 months when Bresnan should not have played, it is also wide of the mark to suggest his earlier Test form was a fluke.

Possible squad Alastair Cook, Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Graham Onions/Tim Bresnan

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mark on May 11, 2013, 6:38 GMT

    If Bresnan is not to play, then pointless him carrying drinks as he needs to play some cricket and get overs under his belt.

    Plus we need him at Yorkshire if Brooksy injured!

  • David on May 11, 2013, 4:14 GMT

    Who could forget Graham Onions' SA tour 09/10. Twice, with England on the ropes, he stood his ground and saved the match. He survived 12 balls & scored a run in the 1st test, and survived 11 balls without scoring in the 3rd test, ensuring a draw in both and putting England ahead in the series. He racked up 11 runs in 5 innings, & was NEVER DISMISSED! His average of 0.5 runs in the 2 back-to-the-wall innings drew the series.

    In his first stand, he survived more balls in that innings than did Strauss, Bell, Prior & Broad! In the 3rd test's critical 2nd innings he faced more than Swann and Prior, & in the 1st innings faced more than than Strauss, Pietersen and Anderson & with one devilish late cut through the slips, he found the boundry & outscored them too!

    In the 3 matches he played, England was undefeated, & SA could not take his wicket!

    Pick him as a batsman for The Ashes, & then leak a secret dossier naming him England's Faf du Plessis. Clarke will have nightmares for years!

  • John on May 11, 2013, 0:59 GMT

    Unless England makes a startling change in its policy and plays an extra bowler, it seems likely that Root and Bairstow will be 5 and 6 with the usual 4 bowlers. I don't see Woakes as a third seamer (but he's certainly good enough to be a 4th) and I don't see Bresnan as a #7 bat.

    @Geoff Khan: hopefully Dernbach will remain forgotten. Happily he's never been anywhere near the test squad and now he's out of the Champions Trophy ODI squad we can all breathe a sigh of relief!

  • Shanmugam on May 10, 2013, 23:15 GMT

    Rest Swann for this test series and play Tredwell. Give Swann a game or two in the CT and keep him fresh for the Ashes.

    Onions in the XI for me ahead of Finn or Broad. He struggled in the warm-ups in NZ but in English conditions, he is a different bowler.

    Otherwise the squad is fine.

  • Dummy4 on May 10, 2013, 16:53 GMT

    I wouldnt play Swann against NZ, give him a bit more time to get some cricket, yes we can afford it. A replacement would be Panaser for Lord's, and tredwell for Headingley. The batting look,s fine persevere with Bairstow and keep tab's on Chopra, Burns, and Robson. The bowling of And/Finn/Broad/Onion's pick's itself, and spare a thought for Dernbach, the forgotten man?

  • Dean on May 10, 2013, 15:33 GMT

    Bresnan's early season form for Yorks has been encouraging and he has certainly put down a marker for the ashes later in the summer. However I don't think there is any great need to rush him back in to the side for either of these tests I would be quite happy to see him continue his rehabilition with Yorkshire. Roland Jones has continued to impress and it would be great to see him play in this series. It is likley that we will need more options than the estblished quartet of Broad,Bres,Finn & Anderson over the 10 ashes tests so this would be a great opportunity to see if he can take his FC form to the next level. A similar case could be made for Onions to play as well. As the article states he was awful in the game in Queenstown but judging by his fine start to the season with Durham it was probably just down to rustiness.

  • Andrew on May 10, 2013, 13:32 GMT

    No KP, leaves a big hole in the middle order, so under that old saying - Diamonds are formed under pressure, will be interesting to see how Root & Bairstow fair. I would imagine Bresnan would get the nod over Onions - as it wasn't that long ago that Bresnan was one match short of the unbeaten at Test match level record. So Bresnan would be considered to have some sort of talisman effect. I really think NZ are a chance though!

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