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Ollie Robinson, James Bracey, Craig Overton - Meet the England new boys

Seven members of England's squad to face New Zealand have played five Tests or fewer

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
James Bracey, Craig Overton and Dan Lawrence are all in contention to play at Lord's  •  Getty Images

James Bracey, Craig Overton and Dan Lawrence are all in contention to play at Lord's  •  Getty Images

Due to injuries and the ECB's stated policy of rest and rotation, England's 16-man squad to take on New Zealand features a number of players at the start of their Test careers. Three are uncapped, with at least two likely to make their debuts over the next couple of weeks, while seven members of the group have played five Tests or fewer. Here we take a look at the new (or at least newish) faces hoping to make an impact ahead of five Tests against India and an Ashes winter.
James Bracey
Test caps: 0
A technically sound wicketkeeper-bat, Bracey has been winning positive reviews ever since being called up as part of last summer's expanded training squad. Opening the batting in the first intra-squad match ahead of the West Indies Tests, he top-scored with 85 from 194 balls for Team Buttler and has been one of England's reserve batters ever since, travelling with the team on tours to Sri Lanka and India and dutifully learning the ropes while spending almost 20 weeks in biosecure bubbles. It is as keeper that he is set to debut, following Ben Foakes' untimely hamstring tear and England's decision to look past recent IPL returnees Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow. Will be Gloucestershire's first Test cricketer since Jon Lewis, now England's elite bowling coach, played his only game against Sri Lanka 15 years ago.
Key stat: 45.66 - Bracey's first-class average since the start of 2020
"I'm in a really good place with my batting. I came out of that trip to Asia and looked at myself and thought I could do a job in Test cricket in that top three, that's what I've been aiming to do. Opportunity comes with the gloves but I want to be batting in the top three as well."
Ollie Robinson
Test caps: 0
Sussex's spearhead is the most prolific fast bowler in English conditions over the last four seasons, and seemingly on the brink of winning his chance at the next level. Something of a wayward talent in his earlier years - he was sacked by Yorkshire as a 20-year-old - Robinson rebuilt his reputation down at Hove, working under the tutelage of Jason Gillespie. In the 2018 Championship, he claimed 74 wickets at 18.66, following that up with 63 at 16.44 in 2019, before going on to impress on the England Lions' tour of Australia: Robinson's match haul of 7 for 147 at the MCG helping set up a nine-wicket win over a strong Australia A side. He can bat, too, having scored a century from No. 9 on first-class debut, and comes into the series in fine form with the ball, his 29 wickets from five matches including a career-best 9 for 78 at Cardiff last month.
Key stat: 188 - no seamer has taken more first-class wickets in England since the start of 2018
"He wouldn't let anyone down. If he was thrown the ball in a Test match, he wouldn't let England down. He would perform a role very well." Jason Gillespie
Olly Stone
Test caps: 2
Injury-bedevilled at various stages of his career, Stone has emerged as the third prong among England's genuine pace options - behind Jofra Archer and Mark Wood. Tall and rangy, Stone is capable of bowling 90mph and moving the ball both ways. He came through at Northamptonshire, debuting in the T20 side at 17 and going on to captain England Under-19s, then signed for Warwickshire in 2016, despite having his season ended prematurely by a cruciate ligament injury. Strong performances in 2018 led to inclusion on the winter tour to Sri Lanka, where he made his ODI debut, but he returned home early from the subsequent trip to the Caribbean after being diagnosed with a back stress fracture. Looked the part on Test debut against Ireland in 2019 before the back problem flared again, Stone impressed again on his return to England whites in Chennai earlier this year.
Key stat: 19.30 - Stone's first-class bowling average for Warwickshire
"I hope I'm the finished article now. I'm still pushing hard to improve but all the months of rehab were about getting to where I am now."
Craig Overton
Test caps: 4
The older of the Overton twins by a matter of minutes, Craig was in the Somerset first team as an 18-year-old and soon making his mark as one of the country's most-promising allrounders. First called into an England squad back in 2015, he featured regularly for the Lions and won inclusion in the touring party for the 2017-18 Ashes after a summer in which he claimed 46 Championship wickets at 22.39. Pitched into the fire in Adelaide, Overton showed his appetite for a fight by claiming Steven Smith as his maiden Test wicket and then top-scoring with 41 in England's first innings. He kept his place for Perth but was then ruled out with a cracked rib. Further one-off Test appearances followed in Auckland and during the 2019 Ashes, but he has returned to contention after working to add extra pace to his bowling while maintaining control.
Key stat: 12.86 - Overton has the best bowling average of anyone to have taken more than one wicket in the County Championship this year
"Before, I could bowl at sort of 80% [intensity] and feel like I'd done a decent job, but that's not going to get me picked for England. I've got to be bowling those 100% spells all the time, running in and changing the game."
Dan Lawrence
Test caps: 5
Prodigiously talented, Lawrence made headlines when scoring a County Championship hundred as a 17-year-old at The Oval in 2015 - and getting a handshake from Kevin Pietersen, no less - before going on to become a mainstay of the Essex side that won red-ball titles in 2017, 2019 and 2020. Like Robinson, it was on the 2019-20 England Lions tour of Australia that Lawrence really gave the talent ID men a nudge - an innings of 190 in a non-first-class match against Cricket Australia XI was followed by 125 against Australia A and the pink ball in the day-night unofficial Test. He proved himself at home in the senior England bubble last summer and, in the absence of Ollie Pope, was handed a Test debut in Galle, where a match tally of 94 runs, including a not out to steady a small chase, confirmed his readiness. India was a step up, but he finished the tour with another half-century in Ahmedabad.
Key stat: 73 - Lawrence's maiden Test innings came as part of a century stand with Joe Root
"Look, I hate to praise him. But he's one of the best batsmen I've ever seen." Tom Westley, Essex captain
Sam Billings
Test caps: 0
Kent's captain and another among England's glut of talented wicketkeeper-batters, Billings has been a regular in the white-ball set-up over the last six years without ever really sealing a spot as first choice. Came to attention via his explosive and innovative batting, winning ODI and T20I caps in 2015 under the new regime overseen by Trevor Bayliss and Eoin Morgan. Billings soon became a regular on the global T20 circuit, playing in the IPL, Big Bash and the PSL, while remaining on the fringes for England; he would likely have been in the squad for the 2019 World Cup but for a shoulder dislocation suffered at the start of the summer. Scored his maiden international hundred against Australia last year, and received his first Test call as back-up keeper to Bracey despite only recently emerging from quarantine after the IPL.
Key stat: 2 - Billings is one of only two men to have scored a hundred in each innings of a first-class match at Headingley
"I think there are opportunities in the Test team as well, especially as a batter and also in the wicketkeeping position. I find that really exciting. I don't want to just be pigeon-holed as a white-ball player. I'm better than that."
Haseeb Hameed
Test caps: 3
When Hameed debuted as a 19-year-old in India on the 2016-17 tour, scoring an ice-cool 82 in the second innings at Rajkot, it was assumed England had found a Test opener who, in the Alastair Cook mould, would be ever-present for the next decade and more. However, a finger fracture ended his tour early, and while the search for a durable partner for Cook went on, Hameed suffered a drastic loss of form back with Lancashire. He managed just three fifties in the 2017 Championship, but even that was riches compared to the following summer, when he averaged 9.70 from 10 appearances with a top score of 31. Let go from Old Trafford, he signed for Nottinghamshire in 2019 and has quietly rebuilt his game - though the spotlight was quickly back on him after twin hundreds against Worcestershire in April. Called up as cover after Foakes' injury, a Test return after four-and-a-half years away would be one for the romantics.
Key stat: 635 - number of balls Hameed faced at New Road, a Championship record
"Like a lot of young players, they go through the dip. They start very well, but then certain things happen to them, expectation gets increased, sometimes they try to move their game in the wrong places, and slowly but surely they start to find their true games. Has is finding that now." Peter Moores, Notts head coach

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick