Experienced skipper Kane Williamson will make his long-awaited return to Test cricket during New Zealand's tour of England that commences next month.
The Black Caps on Wednesday named a strong 20-player squad for the three-match series that starts at Lord's on June 2, with Williamson set to feature at Test level for the first time since November last year.
Williamson has made a full recovery from the elbow injury that saw him miss drawn series against Bangladesh and South Africa and is currently captaining Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League.
The inclusion of the third ranked player on the MRF Tyres Men's ICC Test Batting Rankings will be a welcome addition to a New Zealand side who are currently in sixth place on the World Test Championship standings and in desperate need of adding some points.
Recently retired duo Ross Taylor and BJ Watling are the only two players missing from the squad that toured England as part of the successful World Test Championship touring party last year.
Experienced seamers Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner have all been included, while Tom Latham, Devon Conway and Williamson will be expected to contribute plenty of runs.
Uncapped all-rounder Michael Bracewell has been included in his first touring party, while Cam Fletcher, Blair Tickner and Jacob Duffy may also make their Test debuts if they make the final 15-player squad.
For captain Kane Williamson, while the challenge of playing England in their home conditions is tough and trying, the quality across the playing group instils confidence even if the likes of Taylor and Watling are no longer part of the group.
"The Test team’s been fairly strong in terms of its consistency as a group for a while and so that’s certainly something to be excited about."
“We know the challenge is fierce. Every time you play England, certainly at home in their conditions, there’s no one better.
“It’s definitely one of those places where conditions are unique and that’s one of the beauties of the international game, so it’s great to be going back to the UK.”
New Zealand coach Gary Stead is looking forward to the tour and is expecting England to provide his team with a stiff challenge.
"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."
New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Tom Blundell, 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
New Zealand Test schedule:
First Test: Lord's - June 2-6
Second Test: Trent Bridge - June 10-14
Third Test: Headingley - June 23-27
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