England bowling legends Stuart Broad and James Anderson will both be available for selection in the upcoming Test series against New Zealand, according to the new England Men’s Team Director, Rob Key, who was appointed in the middle of April.
The First Test against the Black Caps gets underway at Lord’s on June 2ndand New Zealand will be strongly fancied by cricket betting fans given the comparative Test records of the two teams, as reported by TBA.
New Zealand, who are currently ranked second in the ICC Test ratings, have been improving steadily in the longest form of the game, which culminated in their victory in the inaugural Test Championship against India last summer. They also beat England 1-0 in a two-Test series that served as a warm-up to the Test Championship decider.
By contrast, England are on a nine-game Test losing streak, and have lost their last five series, going back to the start of 2021, when they beat Sri Lanka 2-0. Their two latest defeats: a 4-1 loss in the Ashes and a 2-0 series capitulation against West Indies, led to the replacement of Joe Root as England captain with Ben Stokes.
Broad and Anderson, who have amassed 1177 Test wickets between them, were controversially left out of the Tour to the Caribbean, but it seems that Stokes and Key are in agreement that both should be back in action against the Black Caps, fitness and form permitting . And while Key has sounded a note of caution given the age of the two veterans and their recent history of injuries, he has indicated that as both are Test-only bowlers, there is less pressure on the England team to rest or rotate the players , signaling also that the ‘building for the future’ approach that has characterised recent England selection policy is no longer the default position.
But while Broad and Anderson are likely to be involved in the first Test action of the summer, the situation is not so clear about other players. In the recent series against West Indies, only Root and Jonny Bairstow averaged over 40. In the Ashes, it was a similar story, with Root and Bairstow the only two batsmen to crack 30 over the course of five matches.
That Ashes series saw only three England bowlers: Anderson, Broad and Mark Wood, finish with a bowling average under 50. In the Caribbean, it was Stokes himself, along with Saqib Mahmood, who carried the bowling.
The return of Anderson and Broad, supported by the likes of Mahmood, Wood, Chris Woakes and possibly even Jofra Archer, at least gives England a serviceable fast bowling attack, but the batting line-up remains full of holes. At least three batting spots are up for grabs, and there will be pressure on Ben Stokes to drop down the order given his captaincy and bowling duties.
The loss of confidence in England’s ability to compete in Test cricket – in marked contrast to their ongoing strength in the limited-overs formats – is also reflective of the generally pessimistic state of English cricket perspectives in general. There has been talk about the state of English pitches, the proliferation of limited-overs techniques and the structure of domestic competitions, reminiscent of similar debates going back to the 1980s, yet a depressingly familiar reluctance to look at the bigger picture, including the anachronism of basing the main domestic long-form cricket competition on rural geographical divisions rather than cities, and the dilution of talent and resources produced by sustaining an 18-team championship. The narrow ethnic and class base of English cricket also deserves more detailed attention.
In the short term, however, Key faces some more immediate issues. England are still without a coach, although Gary Kirsten and Simon Katich are both rumoured to be in the running for the job, while there is also the question of whether England need a new National Selector, a position that would also include overseeing the English scouting network, as well as the coaches.
In the context of all that upheaval, bringing back Anderson and Broad should give the England set-up some stability and hopefully a win or two.