Will James Anderson and Stuart Broad both play in England’s first Test of the summer against New Zealand at Lord’s?
The seamers were rotated for much of the winter, only playing in tandem in one of England’s six Tests in the subcontinent – the day-night, pink-ball Test against India in Ahmedabad.
However, journalist Adam Collins – speaking on a Sky Sports Cricket Podcast to preview the two-Test series against the Black Caps, which starts on Wednesday – said he expects Broad and Anderson to both make England’s XI at the Home of Cricket this week.
Broad was omitted from the first Test against West Indies last July but then bagged 29 wickets in five games at an average of 13.41 en route to being named Test Player of the Summer – and feels he and Anderson are still in England’s best attack at home.
“Anderson has stated he wants to play all seven Tests this summer and he can be quite persuasive when it comes to selection,” said Collins, on a podcast you can listen to in the player above.
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“Broad kicked off when he didn’t play the first Test last summer and fair enough, too, based on the way he bowled through the rest of the summer.
“I think they will both play. I would be very surprised if they don’t get the chance to start the summer alongside each other.
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“There is a decent argument England could play two separate attacks in this series given they are back-to-back Tests and it is a long summer.
“Not only to manage [bowlers] but also to give everyone a Test under their belt, but I just don’t think that’s how England are approaching this.
“Maybe with the third seamer, but it feels pretty clear to me that Anderson and Broad want to start the summer playing both matches against New Zealand and, as the senior pros, I think their opinion will carry a fair amount of weight.”
Ben Foakes’ freak injury – the Surrey wicketkeeper slipping in the dressing room and tearing his left hamstring – means the uncapped James Bracey seems set to take the gloves against New Zealand, although Sam Billings is an option for England having been drafted into the squad.
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Bracey mixes keeping wicket with batting at No 3 for Gloucestershire in the County Championship but former Ireland wicketkeeper Niall O’Brien, who joined Collins on the Sky Cricket Podcast, says he hopes the 24-year-old bats further down the order if he takes the gloves.
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“I know the character of the bloke. He is a pretty level-headed character and I think he will be just fine,” said O’Brien, who played one Test, 103 one-day internationals and 30 T20 internationals for Ireland.
“I just hope that if he is going to keep that he bats down the order as if he is asked to keep and bat at the top of the order it is going to be a hard task.
“I have watched him since he was at Loughborough University, so going back a good four or five years. He has done a lot of work in the last 12 to 18 months since being in and around the England set-up and I have noticed a big difference in his keeping. I still think there is a fair bit of work to go.
“Keeping in first-class cricket is going to be a totally different test to keeping in a Test at Lord’s with the ball wobbling around. Lord’s is probably one of the most difficult places to keep.
“We have seen very accomplished keepers come from overseas and really struggle with the wobbling ball and Anderson, Broad and Ollie Robinson wobble the ball. If Bracey does keep wicket, it is going to be a tough test.
“He is going to be under pressure as if you drop someone like Kane Williamson early it could be a massive moment. If he does that before his first Test innings and brings it into his batting, it could be very difficult.”
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Bracey is in line to keep wicket with Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow among England’s IPL contingent being rested for the New Zealand series, a decision O’Brien does not agree with.
He said: “I am not overly happy with it. I think they should be playing in this Test match. We all need time off in a busy summer but I think the first Test of the summer, a marquee fixture against a brilliant New Zealand side at Lord’s, there is no reason these guys couldn’t be playing.
“I think the fans deserve it and I’d be interested to know what the players think. Is it a conversation between them and the ECB? Was it a joint decision or were they told they weren’t playing?”
Collins added: “Would the same rest policy be applied if this was an India or Australia Test match? Of course it wouldn’t have been.
“New Zealand have been ranked No1 in the world and are in the World Test Championship final yet for whatever reason they are not thought of being in that top bracket, at least at some subliminal level.
“You can see that by virtue of England players being rested.”
Watch the first Test between England and New Zealand, at Lord’s, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10am on Wednesday.
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