Sam Curran seems all but certain to play as England’s third seamer in next week’s first Test against New Zealand, after being preferred to Chris Woakes in the England side to play New Zealand A in Whangerai.
With the England management having made clear that the side named here will, fitness permitting, play in the first Test next week, it means Curran can expect an England Test recall at Mount Maunganui, on November 21.
Woakes’ overseas record will have done him few favours. He averages 61.77 in his 12 Tests away from home when using the Kookaburra or SG ball (he averages 23.45 in home Tests using a Duke’s ball) and finished wicketless in the tour match against a New Zealand XI earlier in the week.
Curran’s record is no better – he averages 105.50 with the ball in his four Tests away from home – but he is, aged 21, nine years younger than Woakes and offers some variation from the rest of the attack with his left-arm angle.
While neither man gained much movement with the Kookaburra ball in that first warm-up game, Curran did take one wicket – that of Jakob Bhula – when the batsman misjudged the line; a result, perhaps, of that variation.
It would be premature to write off Woakes, but the decision does raise questions about his future at Test level. England hope to have Mark Wood and James Anderson back by the time they go to South Africa in December, and there are unlikely to be many opportunities for seamers of Woakes’ style in Sri Lanka in April. He remains a potent force in England but as England start to look to the future, it is possible he may struggle to win a recall.
The rest of the England side for the three-day match in Whangerai is as expected. Dom Sibley opens alongside Rory Burns, with Joe Denly moved to No. 3 and Joe Root to No. 4. Ollie Pope will bat at No. 6 in between Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler. Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad are expected to take the new ball, with Jack Leach playing as the only spinner.
England XI 1 Rory Burns, 2 Dom Sibley, 3 Joe Denly, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Ollie Pope, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Sam Curran, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 Jack Leach.