England kick-started a new era on Monday with a number of new faces in the touring party to New Zealand and some notable absentees.
The most unexpected was Jonny Bairstow not being part of the 15-man Test squad, after a poor run of form with the bat which dates back to the start of the year.
Jos Buttler will take over as England’s wicketkeeper-batsmen and bat at seven in a new-look batting line-up for the two red-ball matches against the Black Caps.
With captain Joe Root back in his preferred position of number four, Joe Denly will drop to three and Rory Burns’ latest opening partner will be Dominic Sibley, who made his first-class debut alongside the Surrey captain in September 2013.
Sibley, 24, permanently left the Oval ahead of the 2018 season and moved to Warwickshire, where this season’s tally of 1,324 runs in County Championship Division One is unrivalled and he should get the nod in New Zealand ahead of fellow new face Zak Crawley of Kent.
Lower down the order – most likely behind Ben Stokes at five – will be Ollie Pope, who scored 221 not out for Surrey against Hampshire last month and gave the selectors a timely reminder of his quality which saw him picked for two Tests against India in August 2018.
“It is the start of a new cycle. With Trevor (Bayliss) leaving, it’s an opportunity for English cricket to look ahead. It’s a strong Test squad, but there is an eye on the future clearly,” England’s national selector Ed Smith said.
“Dom Sibley has shown a number of qualities you look for in an opening batsmen. He has batted a lot of time and scored a serious weight of runs.
“Zak Crawley has not yet produced the raw numbers Dom has this year. However, he has impressed everyone – opponents, team-mates and everyone at the Lions – with his class, attitude and character.”
Pope, who will also be reserve wicketkeeper in New Zealand, dislocated his left shoulder in April, but returned ahead of schedule and this alongside his runs saw the 21-year-old earn a recall to the Test squad.
Smith added: “It is pretty obvious when you pick someone at 20 you think they are going to be a very good player, but Ollie’s numbers are absolutely outstanding.
“Also as a person, the way he responded to a very serious injury by doing everything possible to get back as soon as he could and actually to get back in better shape then before he was injured is very typical of him.
“We are excited about Ollie Pope’s future and as we are looking to identify people with the DNA of a Test player, he is very much the type of player we want to give opportunities to.”
England’s long-term goal in red-ball cricket is to win back the Ashes in the 2021-20 series in Australia and the inclusion of Lancashire bowlers Matt Parkinson and Saqib Mahmood in the Test squad, with James Anderson and Mark Wood out injured, is with an eye on the future.
Leg-spinner Parkinson was described as a “feisty competitor” by Smith and backed to “relish the new challenge” while county colleague Mahmood, who has regularly hit 90mph speeds, was labelled as “someone who can bring a different dimension.”
Both are part of Eoin Morgan’s Twenty20 squad for the tour of New Zealand and seem more likely to make their England debuts in that five-match series, compared to the longer form of the game.
Somerset’s exciting wicketkeeper-batsman Tom Banton also travels alongside bowler Pat Brown of Worcestershire and the former – who scored 549 runs in the Vitality Blast – will aim to take his opportunity with the T20 World Cup coming up late next year.
“Banton is a very difficult batsman to keep quiet and he has played some dominant innings,” Smith said. “We believe he is the type of player who fits into an Eoin Morgan team.”
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