Wellington Firebirds all-rounder Michael Bracewell has capped off an impressive season with inclusion in the BLACKCAPS Test squad for the upcoming tour of England.
The 31-year-old earned his maiden T20I and One Day International calls ups over the recent summer and impressed in his ODI debut series against the Netherlands.
The extended 20-player squad will also see Canterbury wicket-keeper Cam Fletcher and Central Stags paceman Blair Tickner embark on their first tour with the BLACKCAPS Test squad, following recent call-ups for the home Test series against South Africa in Christchurch in February.
With the five BLACKCAPS at the IPL unlikely to be available for the two warm-up matches at Hove (May 20th - 23rd) and at Chlemsford (May 26th - 29th), the initial squad of 20 will be reduced to 15 ahead of the three Tests against England, the first of which begins at Lord’s on June 2.
Along with the valuable ICC World Test Championship (WTC) points on the line, the tour will also mark a year on from the BLACKCAPS’ historic away Test series victory over England, which was followed by their victory against India in the inaugural WTC Final in Southampton.
Of the 15 players from the WTC Final squad, 13 will return for this tour to England, with Ross Taylor and BJ Watling having since retired.
Alongside Bracewell, Fletcher and Tickner; the experienced Otago Volts pair of batsman Hamish Rutherford and swing bowler Jacob Duffy have been included, while 22-year-old spinning all-rounder Rachin Ravindra also returns.
Fletcher has been selected as the second wicket-keeper alongside incumbent Tom Blundell, while Ajaz Patel is the front-line spinner following his successful returns with the ball in England and India last year.
Gary Stead’s coaching staff for the tour will again feature the addition of a fourth support coach - to be confirmed before departure, along with the familiar faces of Shane Jurgensen (bowling) and Luke Ronchi (batting).
With another large winter of white-ball cricket to immediately follow the Test tour, NZC will once again prioritise player and staff welfare by managing workloads over the next 14 weeks.
The BLACKCAPS will play series in Ireland (3x ODI & 3x T20I) and Scotland (2x T20I & 1x ODI) in July and Netherlands (2x T20I) in early August, followed straight-after by a tour to the West Indies (3x T20I & 3x ODI) - with the final touring squads and coaching groups to be confirmed closer to the time.
BLACKCAPS squad for England Tour
Kane Williamson (c) (Northern Districts)
Tom Blundell (wk) (Wellington Firebirds)
Trent Boult (Northern Districts)
Michael Bracewell (Wellington Firebirds)
Devon Conway (Wellington Firebirds)
Colin de Grandhomme (Northern Districts)
Jacob Duffy (Otago Volts)
Cameron Fletcher (Canterbury)
Matt Henry (Canterbury)
Kyle Jamieson (Auckland Aces)
Tom Latham (Canterbury)
Daryl Mitchell (Canterbury)
Henry Nicholls (Canterbury)
Ajaz Patel (Central Stags)
Rachin Ravindra (Wellington Firebirds)
Hamish Rutherford (Otago Volts)
Tim Southee (Northern Districts)
Blair Tickner (Central Stags)
Neil Wagner (Northern Districts)
Will Young (Central Stags)
BLACKCAPS coach Gary Stead said it was exciting to be embarking on another important period of cricket.
“It’s going to be a busy winter, but one we’re looking to embrace as a group,” he said.
“We’ve seen in recent times the need to be flexible with squads, schedules and staffing - and this winter will be no different.
“The red ball tour of England first up is clearly high on our priority list and we’re looking forward to hitting the ground running over there in a couple of weeks’ time.
“Touring England is always a special occasion with the people, the grounds and the history all making for a wonderful experience.
“The English are always tough in their own conditions and have many talented players they can call on.
“There’s a reason we’ve only ever won a couple of Test series over there and we know we’ll have to be at our very best to do it again.
“It’s an exciting time in particular for Michael and Cam, who will be heading away with the BLACKCAPS for the first time.
“They had a taste of the environment this summer and I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to the opportunity of touring with the side and all the extra things that entails.”
Stead said with five players away at the IPL and a couple more (Will Young at Northamptonshire, and Colin de Grandhomme at Surrey) playing County Cricket – there would be a need to transition a significant number into the squad ahead of the series.
“All going to plan we will have everyone fit and available for the first Test at Lord’s, and aim to announce our final squad of 15 for that series once we’ve completed our warm-up games.”
He added that, with such a prolonged schedule away from home, the welfare and well-being of players and staff would again be paramount.
“Last season I thought we juggled our resources really well to ensure the welfare of our people was prioritised, and we’ll be looking to do that again with the white ball cricket in July and August.
“That means no players or staff will stay with the side for the entire 14 weeks while we’re away, as we balance the workloads.
“The ICC T20 World Cup in Australia is only six months away and we’ll continue to also prioritise as much planning and preparation for that as possible.”