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Cricket news - England to announce Test squad next week with availability of IPL players uncertain
Foakes is likely to retain his spot in the squad.
Chris Silverwood will make first use of his new responsibilities for selection early next week as he names the England squad for the opening Test match assignment of the summer against New Zealand.
Last month, Ed Smith was sacked and the position of National Selector made redundant as Ashley Giles, the ECB's director of men's cricket, opted to consign the previous selection structure to the bin and give responsibility for choosing all of England's senior men's teams to head coach Silverwood. Giles' rationale is simple: the head coach is responsible for the performance of the team so it makes sense that he has control over picking it. According to Giles, it also provides a clearer sense of accountability in the selection process.
Silverwood will confirm the squad for the two Tests against New Zealand, the first of which begins at Lord's on June 2, on Tuesday (May 18). It has not yet been confirmed how many players will be named in the party but the ECB are keen to avoid a large number of reserves having to live within the confines of a bio-secure bubble without playing as was the case last summer. Even so, it is likely to be a larger squad than the traditional 13-man group.
Despite England's IPL players being back in the country and, in theory at least, available for that first Test, there are suggestions that Silverwood could stick to the original plan and include a number of new faces to give them some experience ahead of a busy 12 months.
That means the likes of uncapped Sussex fast-bowler Ollie Robinson and Gloucestershire wicket-keeper batsman James Bracey are likely to be included. Essex batsman Dan Lawrence, who made a decent start to his Test career during the winter, is also set to be picked while Ben Foakes may continue to wear the gloves after deputising for Jos Buttler in the final three matches of the India series.
It remains to be seen whether Buttler, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran are included. The trio, all of whom have red-ball contracts, have been in a 10-day hotel quarantine since they arrived back in England from India after the postponement of the IPL. They are set to leave their hotels at midnight on Saturday (May 15) and would then just have a few days to prepare for the next round of Championship matches which begin next Thursday.
As bowlers, that may be too short a turnaround for Woakes and Curran in particular. Each of the players who have been in quarantine have only been allowed 30 minutes of outside exercise per day at their hotels and England's management will not want to risk injury by rushing the players back.
There is also the well-being angle to consider with the players having been in various bio-secure bubbles for most of the year. No doubt they will want time with their families. With England's squad set to assemble on May 28, if Buttler, Woakes and Curran do not play in next week's round of Championship matches, they will have no first-class game time before the first Test.
Opener Dom Sibley looks set for some match practice, though. He is likely to play in Warwickshire's second team match against Northamptonshire beginning on Monday ahead of a possible return to Championship action against Essex at Chelmsford later in the week. He has not played since mid-April after he broke a finger in the field against Nottinghamshire.
Jofra Archer is another player who seems to be winning his fitness battle after being ruled out of the IPL to manage an elbow injury. He is currently playing for Sussex against Kent and took 2-29 from 13 overs, including the wicket of his England teammate Zak Crawley, on the first day.
"My fitness is fine, I thought I bowled okay," Archer said after play on Thursday. "I played in the second team last week and it's good to get some confidence and I felt fine. I bowled in short spells for protection in case we had a long day but it was overcast, which helped a bit. There was a bit of management, but it all worked out."
One player who definitely won't be included in the Test squad is Ben Stokes who fractured his left index finger in the opening match of the IPL, catching Chris Gayle. The initial prognosis was that Stokes would be out for three months from the time of injury but, writing in his column for the Daily Mirror, the all-rounder said he hopes to be back within "seven, eight or nine" weeks. Either way, he will certainly miss the two Tests against New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Silverwood has confirmed that he will take a break during the six back-to-back ODIs against Sri Lanka and Pakistan which begin in the middle of June. His assistant coaches Paul Collingwood and Graham Thorpe will take charge for one of those series each. Silverwood will, however, be in place for both the three-match T20I series against the same opponents which take place at either end of the six ODIs.
"If I am not operating at 100% and not giving back what I need to give back to the team, I won't be providing the service of a level, of a quality that I need to do," Silverwood, whose wife has booked a week away to make sure he fully switches off, said. "It's not fair on the players if I am operating at less than 100% and it is not fair on myself either. It's not where I want to be.
"I think it is just important that we keep our personnel as fresh as possible. You saw that during the winter that we tried to do that with our players to the best of our ability. It's equally as important we do that with the staff so they can make sure that they can prep the players to make sure they are successful when they are out on the park. It's important we look after each other.
"I said right from the start I was going to step back at times and promote them forward to give them leadership opportunities. This is a great opportunity for us to do that, for them to step up and show us what they can do in that position. Equally, give them the responsibility of making decisions, working alongside the captain. I think it will be a great experience for them.
"I wouldn't do it if I didn't trust them 100% which I do. As players, they played a lot more international cricket than me so you surround yourself with the things that maybe you don't have and build a team that way. They're a huge asset to us."
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