Liam Livingstone has been drafted into England’s squad for the two-Test tour of New Zealand in March and April, after Gary Ballance paid the price for England’s 4-0 thrashing in the Ashes – despite not featuring at any stage of the series.
James Vince and Mark Stoneman have both been handed another chance after mediocre Ashes series, a move endorsed by coach Trevor Bayliss. The naming of the squad for New Zealand had been delayed by 24 hours due to Joe Root’s illness and the selectors resisted wholesale changes despite the 4-0 Ashes defeat.
Livingstone, 24, made his international debut in the T20 series against South Africa last summer – and though he failed to impress with 16 runs in two innings, he has long been seen as one of the brightest young prospects in English cricket.
He made 805 runs for Lancashire in the County Championship in 2017, including an impressive 224 against Warwickshire in September, and has earned a call-up ahead of the likes of Dan Lawrence, Joe Clarke or his county team-mate Haseeb Hameed, who was England’s find of the winter in India in 2016-17, but struggled to rediscover his best form after recovering from a broken hand.
“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,” said James Whitaker, the national selector.
“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. We are particularly impressed with the way he bats against spin and is equally adept against the seamers. Liam is also highly regarded at his county Lancashire and will captain the side in the Specsavers County Championship during the 2018 campaign.”
The other notable inclusion is Durham’s fast bowler, Mark Wood, who flirted with a recall ahead of the Perth Test in December after England’s lack of out-of-out pace had been exposed in the first two Tests. In the end he was not deemed sufficiently match-fit to be risked in a Test match, despite having impressed for England Lions on their camp in Queensland, but now he’s back in the squad in place of Jake Ball, after recovering from the ankle problems that undermined his Test comeback against South Africa last summer.
“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.”
Ben Stokes is included, though 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.
In addition to Ballance and Ball, the Surrey seamer Tom Curran also misses out from the squad that completed the Ashes.
“All three players (Gary Ballance, Jake Ball, Tom Curran) have worked hard on the recent Ashes tour,” said Whitaker. “Unfortunately, they miss out on selection for New Zealand. All three will return to county cricket and will be looking to start the season well with a view to staking their claim to get back into selection reckoning. They are talented players and I am sure their time will come again.”