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Michael Bracewell earns NZ Test call-up for England tour, Kane Williamson nears return

Allrounder Michael Bracewell has been included in a New Zealand Test squad for the first time as part of the initial 20-player group for the series against England next month.
There are also spots for the uncapped Cam Fletcher, Blair Tickner and Jacob Duffy in the enlarged squad which will cover for likely IPL absentees during the warm-up matches and then be trimmed before the first Test at Lord’s on June 2.
Kane Williamson, who is set to return to Test cricket for the first time since last November having missed the home season with an elbow problem, is among those who may be absent for both warm-up matches at the end of May due to being at the IPL. Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell also face a delayed arrival to England.
“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,” head coach Gary Stead said. “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.”

New Zealand are defending their World Test Championship title but face an uphill battle to make next year’s final having dropped home Tests against Bangladesh and South Africa in the recent season.

Fletcher, who was called up for the series against South Africa earlier this year, will be the back-up wicketkeeper behind Tom Blundell.

Having not played since taking all ten wickets in an innings against India, left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel returns to the squad with allrounder Rachin Ravindra providing another spin option. Hamish Rutherford offers batting cover.

Stead added that player welfare will continue to be a priority during what will be a busy period overseas for New Zealand with a host of white-ball matches after the England Tests. No player or member of support staff will be involved in all the series which also involve facing Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands and West Indies through to August although there will also be a focus on preparing for the T20 World Cup in Australia.

“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,” Stead said. “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.”

Squad: Kane Williamson (capt), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Michael Bracewell, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Jacob Duffy, Cameron Fletcher, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Rachin Ravindra, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Southee, Blair Tickner, Neil Wagner, Will Young


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