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Is England’s ‘red-ball reset’ Test squad for New Zealand really a step forward?

Matt Parkinson once again misses out on an England Test call-up

After a two-and-a-half month gap that has somehow felt like an eternity, England’s Test side are gearing up for what is set up to be a hugely exciting summer.

Despite the lack of on-pitch action, it hardly feels like we have been apart from the drama for a moment, with the rapid upheaval in change of leadership in all areas of England’s cricket set-up continuing throughout the Spring.

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And as if the past few weeks hasn’t been filled with enough news, England cricket have now announced their 13-man squad ahead of next month’s three-Test series against New Zealand, and two cricketers could make their international red-ball debuts - Durham paceman Matt Potts and Yorkshire batter Harry Brook

It was inevitable that after such an agonisingly, depressing Ashes series changes would have to be made.

England’s head coach Chris Silverwood and his assistant Graham Thorpe both left their roles, with Ashley Giles also stepping down from his role as England’s managing director of Men’s cricket.

Joe Root clawed on to his captaincy by the thinnest of threads, but even he had to eventually give way after the subsequent frustrating tour of West Indies.

Former Kent and England batter Rob Key was announced as the new managing director; Ben Stokes took over from Joe Root and, in more recent news, Brendon McCullum took on the mighty task of head coach.

After such momentous shifts in key roles higher up in England’s leadership, the squad announcement felt underwhelming - an anticlimax for those hoping for a bold new dawn.

With such talent rising up through the County Championship ranks, it felt almost soporific to read through some of the names listed to face New Zealand.

This is supposed to be a time of massive transition into a ‘new era’ of England cricket - when the likes of Craig Overton and Jack Leach are named as those who will form this refreshed side, are we meant to be filled with elated confidence?

Key and Stokes made no secret of the fact that James Anderson and Stuart Broad would be brought back into consideration after their inexplicable omission from West Indies.

While many will ponder on whether a ‘new era’ England should include the returning likes of Overton and Leach, the return of Anderson and Broad is an undeniably beautiful sight.

While it would be uncharitable to calculate their combined age, they have a combined haul of over 1,100 Test wickets and continue to deliver time and time again.

The Lancashire paceman will be marking his 19th year in the England Test squad, and while the England squad shake-up should surely go further, Jimmy and Broady will provide some much needed stability and experience in favourable bowling conditions.

They have seen off many who have tried to steal their spots but always remain a constant and steadying presence for newcomers and, most prominently in this series, new captains.

That positive decision aside, attention must be turned to the more baffling selections made by the ECB.

Parkinson appeals during County match for Lancashire

Jack Leach has been named as the spinner for the series. The Somerset man has produced some fine spells over the years, but surely in a time where we look to a refreshed squad, the moment has come to bring in Matt Parkinson.

When Leach retires from cricket, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that he will be most favourably remembered for that incredible final wicket stand with Ben Stokes at Headingley in 2019, and his 92 runs as night watchman against Ireland - both of which mention his batting prowess rather than his bowling.

Parkinson, on the other hand, has several viral videos circling the internet as he continues to bamboozle opponents with his leg spin.

In this year’s County Championship, Leach edges Parkinson in terms of economy rate - 2.15 vs 2.22 - but the Lancashire spinner has 20 wickets to Leach’s 11.

Personally, I would forsake that 0.06 difference in economy rate if I had the almost certainty of getting more wickets.

It’s unclear what else the 25-year-old from Bolton must do before the England management finally recognise just what a goldmine he could be for his country’s red-ball cricket side.

While many will continue to lament over this bewildering choice, there is at least some morsels of comfort to be had with the prospect of watching England’s two new debutants.

Durham’s Matt Potts has been streets ahead of his County Championship counterparts with 30 wickets and an average of 21.00.

Meanwhile, Harry Brook has scored 758 runs at an average of over 150. These two will most definitely provide a bolt of lightning to an otherwise familiar squad, but once more the question begs as to why, in a ‘new era’ England, are there just two newbies?

We must hope that the understandable desire for a greater shift in players turns out to be a misguided fantasy, and that the squad does not simply provide a dreary repeat of what we have seen in the past 18 months.

However, there remains a sense of deja vu and England’s ‘new era’ may just have to wait that little bit longer.

England Test Squad vs New Zealand:

Ben Stokes (captain); James Anderson; Jonathan Bairstow; Stuart Broad; Harry Brook; Zak Crawley; Ben Foakes; Jack Leach; Alex Lees; Craig Overton; Matthew Potts; Ollie Pope; Joe Root

England will meet New Zealand on 2 June at Lord’s Cricket Ground for the first of three Test matches.