England select paceman Mark Wood and uncapped Liam Livingstone for New Zealand Test series

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Much-needed pace: Fit-again Mark Wood.

England have called up uncapped Lancashire batsman Liam Livingstone and returning paceman Mark Wood for the two-match Test series in New Zealand.

As expected there has been no mass bloodletting after the comprehensive Ashes defeat, with Gary Ballance, Jake Ball and Tom Curran the only absentees from the group beaten 4-0 in Australia.

Ballance did not feature in the series, Ball featured only in the first Test and Curran was a late addition to the squad before turning out in Melbourne and Sydney.

Trevor Bayliss made a strong case for the retention of Mark Stoneman and James Vince when reviewing the campaign earlier this week, but the pair underperformed Down Under and there is little doubt that this show of faith requires immediate payback if they are to linger in the side.

England play two warm-up matches in Hamilton before their gruelling winter schedule finally comes to a close with Tests in Auckland on March 22 and Christchurch on March 30.

Livingstone, 24, is the spare batsman on tour and will likely push harder for a place than Ballance, who resembled little more than a place holder during the Ashes.

The Cumbrian batsman edged out England Lions team-mates Dan Lawrence and Joe Clarke in a selection process delayed for 24 hours by captain Joe Root’s viral illness.

He is an aggressive and innovative presence at the crease and, though he failed to impress when he made his England bow in two Twenty20s against South Africa last summer, Livingstone has plenty of admirers in the national set-up, not least the influential Andy Flower.

National selector James Whitaker said: “Liam has been a player that we have been impressed with for quite some time, having performed well in the county system with Lancashire and over the past couple of years with the England Lions.

“He is a very talented and tough cricketer who has the ideal qualities and character to be successful in the Test arena. During the recent Lions tour of Australia, he was a standout performer and showed a lot of maturity in his attitude and put in some strong performances.”

Wood, meanwhile, would have been present for the Test leg in Australia had he been considered fit and robust enough for the challenge.

Persistent injuries have kept the Durham quick, who is capable of the kind of express pace Root’s side so conspicuously lacked in the past few months, to just 10 Test caps since debuting in May 2015.

He is currently with England’s limited-overs squad as they look to exact a measure of revenge for the Ashes.

“After a frustrating period with injuries, Mark is now back to full fitness and is looking forward to being part of our Test plans,” said Whitaker. “He will play a significant part in our forthcoming ODI tour of

Australia and we will be paying close attention to his efforts over the next few weeks.”

Craig Overton, who also made his Test debut during the Ashes, is currently recovering from a cracked rib but has been picked on the assumption he will be fully fit.

As has been the case with the last three squad announcements all-rounder Ben Stokes appears with a caveat next to his name, as he waits to find out if he will be charged by the Crown Prosecution Service.

The England and Wales cricket Board noted: “His involvement remains subject to any relevant legal or disciplinary developments in relation to the incident in Bristol in September.

“Should the ECB Board receive formal confirmation that Stokes has either been charged or that he will face no charges, they would convene within 48 hours to make a decision on his availability for the team at that stage.”

England squad: J Root (Yorkshire, captain), M Ali (Worcestershire), J Anderson (Lancashire), J Bairstow (Yorkshire), S Broad (Nottinghamshire), A Cook (Essex), M Crane (Hampshire), B Foakes (Surrey), L Livingstone (Lancashire), D Malan (Middlesex), C Overton (Somerset), B Stokes (Durham), M Stoneman (Surrey), J Vince (Hampshire), C Woakes (Warwickshire), M Wood (Durham).

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India to play two T20Is in Ireland before tour of England in July

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India’s cricket board said Wednesday it would play two matches against Ireland ahead of the tour of England in July.

Ireland — who were awarded Test status alongside Afghanistan last year — will host India in Dublin on June 27 and June 29 for two Twenty20 games.

India last toured Ireland in 2007, playing a one-day international in Belfast which they won by nine wickets.

The two sides have met only once for a match in the shortest format, squaring off in Nottingham during the 2009 World T20.

India have tours of both England and Australia lined up for the 2018 season.

The world’s top Test side, led by skipper Virat Kohli, lost the first of three Tests to South Africa in Cape Town on Monday.

The games will be the first T20 internationals for Ireland head coach Graham Ford, and the South African is relishing the prospect of pitting his wits against such high profile opposition.

“It’s fantastic news for the lads and fans alike,” said Ford, who only took the reins of the Irish side last month.

“The matches will of course be a huge challenge for the team, but what an opportunity for everyone to showcase their talents in front of a huge audience, both at the games and live on television,” added the 57-year-old former South Africa head coach.

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Kagiso Rabada becomes the new No.1 Test bowler, Virat Kohli drops down to third

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Rabada has overtaken James Anderson to become the new No1.

South Africa pacer Kagiso Rabada has overtaken England spearhead James Anderson as the No.1 ranked ICC Test bowler after his tally of five wickets in the Newlands victory over India.

This is the first time that the 22-year-old has climbed to the top of the ICC charts since making his debut for South Africa and he was undoubtedly delighted with the fact.

“It’s special to be ranked as the No.1 Test bowler in the world. It is a surreal feeling. It’s what you dream of achieving when you start playing the game,” Rabada said.

“Cricket is ultimately a team sport and I’m thankful for the support from my team-mates. It’s a great start to the year personally and for us as a team, hopefully, we can continue putting in winning performances,” he added.

In the batting stakes, Australia skipper Steve Smith continues to lead with 947 points after his remarkable run in the Ashes although there has been a drop in rankings for his India captain Virat Kohli.

Kohli has dropped to the third spot after being overtaken by Root.

Kohli has dropped to the third spot after being overtaken by Root.

Kohli has slipped from the second position to third with England’s Joe Root overtaking him by one rating point. His India team-mate Cheteshwar Pujara dropped down to the fifth spot from number three behind New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson.

India’s spin-twins Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin are ranked third and fourth respectively in the latest bowler’s rankings behind the pace due of Rabada and Anderson.

Meanwhile, Vernon Philander’s six-wicket haul in the second innings at Newlands has seen him gain six spots in the rankings as he nestles in at the sixth spot behind Australia’s Josh Hazlewood.

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