England have named a 12 man squad for the first Test against New Zealand which begins Thursday at Lord's. Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann return from elbow injuries, with Monty Panesar the only man to miss out from England's last Test match, away to the Black Caps in February.
With Kevin Pietersen still unavailable - forced home from England's tour of New Zealand with bone bruising to his right knee, Joe Root secured his place in the Test side with a sublime 179 for the England Lions against New Zealand in their heavily rain affected warm up game at Leicester. Captaining the side, he led from the front with a fluent innings that takes him to 646 first-class runs for the season, standing him in reasonable stead to reach the accolade of 1,000 first-class runs by the end of May. He has four potential innings in the upcoming Test matches to do so.
NZ skipper Brendon McCullum spoke before the game of wanting to strike a blow in the warm up against those players likely to play in the first Test, but it was Root, along with fellow Test batsmen Johnny Bairstow - also named in the 12 man squad - who dominated the tourists. The Yorkshire teammates posted a partnership of 135 from 26 overs, before Bairstow fell for 68.
After narrowly escaping a Test series defeat in New Zealand through a determined innings from Matt Prior on the final day to save the game, accusations were levelled at the England camp of underestimating their opposition. Those charges have surfaced again in the build up to the return series. A statement from England national selector Geoff Miller, whilst not explicit, was a heavy hint that a similar approach by England's players will not be tolerated again.
"[What happened in New Zealand] makes you realise you can't just go into a game and go through the motions and win the game because, on paper, you are supposedly superior. It doesn't work like that.
"New Zealand are a good side, they have shown what they are capable of doing. Maybe we were forced to under-perform but we didn't play to the capabilities shown in the past so that has got to be rectified. You just say 'right, not good enough, improve'."
It's a sentiment echoed by the England batsmen, who insist that complacency won't be the case at home. Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, speaking at a benefit event for Warwickshire captain Jim Troughton at Edgbaston, talked of the team's intention to give New Zealand due respect, despite undoubtedly having one eye on the rest of the summer.
But with the ICC Champions Trophy starting the day after the 3rd and final ODI against New Zealand, and an Ashes double header later in the year, neither Trott nor Bell could deny that, in part, thoughts will be on the rest of the year. Bell reinforced the opportunity offered by the Champions Trophy being a home tournament coupled with the current strength of the England ODI team, and lauded their "ability to beat any team in the world on their day". Having never won an international 50 over competition, England are also keen to throw that particular monkey off their back.
But there is the matter of New Zealand to deal with first, and England will be hoping that the two young batsmen who dominated for the Lions can carry their form against the Kiwis into the Test series. The inclusion of a full strength squad for Lord's speaks volumes; England are taking no chances in showing they take their opposition seriously.
Although capable of delivering with both bat and ball, Bresnan is likely to be the man to miss out at Lord's. After the stronger than expected performance from New Zealand against England in the winter, and with this two Test series being the season opener of what promises to be a stunning summer of cricket, it would be detrimental for anyone to underestimate these games, be they player or spectator.Suggest a correction