Livingstone and Wood included as England look to future in New Zealand

January 12, 2018

England's tour party for the two Test matches in New Zealand has been named, with the selectors looking to the future as Lancashire batsman Liam Livingstone has been included for his first senior tour. 

The selectors have also announced the return of fast bowler Mark Wood, who did not feature in the Ashes after sustaining a foot injury last summer, but has now proved his fitness with the Lions squad. 

Livingstone has been called up after impressing both at Lancashire and for the Lions down under, with national selector James Whitaker commenting: "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."

Wood will be featuring in the England limited overs squad in Australia before the New Zealand tour and will help provide the extra pace the England attack has been lacking. Although the conditions in New Zealand may provide a lot more help to England's seam and swing bowlers, particularly in the day-night Test at Auckland.
Edgbaston often provides plenty of help for swing bowlers, even without the pink ball, and fans booking corporate hospitality for the England versus India Test match there next summer will be keen to see how he England squad shapes up in the wake of the Ashes. 

As well as the new inclusions, the selectors have axed Gary Ballance, Jake Ball and Tom Curran from the squad. Curran played in the last two Tests, making his debut at Melbourne, while Ball played in the first Test. Ballance did not feature in the series. 

While the trio will hope for more chances next summer, the appearance of Livingstone suggests the selectors want to look at other batting options following mixed returns for James Vince and Mark Stoneman, who nonetheless remain part of the squad. 

Fans may also keenly follow Wood's fortunes as the lack of pace in the England attack was seen as a key factor in the defeat on slow Australian pitches. The home side were able to field three genuinely quick bowlers in all but one Test - the draw at the MCG - while in four Tests between them Australia's fast-medium bowlers Mitchell Marsh and Jackson Bird failed to take a single wicket.

The need for speed may not just ensure Wood's inclusion in the starting line-up, but also the introduction of more bowlers of genuine pace in the Test side in the months ahead. The likes of George Garton, Saqib Mahmood, Olly Stone and Craig Overton's twin brother Jamie are all capable of bowling over 90 mph and it would be surprising not to see at least one of them come into the side soon. 

In the meantime, England will hope the New Zealand tour gives them a chance to get back to winning ways ahead of the summer, with the visit of world number one side India being preceded by two Tests against Pakistan.

Image: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

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