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.”
The full 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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