sport

England set to name strong squad

England's rotation policy looks likely to take a back seat on Thursday when they name a 15-man squad for the Test series against New Zealand.

The England and Wales Cricket Board have been mindful to keep their top players fit ahead of what promises to be a gruelling 18 months, a period which includes a home Champions Trophy, back-to-back Ashes and the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.

But although the three-match Test trip to New Zealand, which starts on March 6, enjoys a considerably lower profile than those assignments, England look set to proceed with a full-strength squad.

Alastair Cook is not minded to skip the matches so early in his captaincy, Kevin Pietersen will have just returned after being rested for the limited-overs leg and Jonathan Trott was given the ongoing one-day series against India off.

Nick Compton and Joe Root made their Test debuts in India before Christmas, following the retirement of Andrew Strauss, and both should be retained for New Zealand.

Compton did just enough to retain Strauss' old opening spot but will be mindful of the need for a big score soon if he is to ink his name in for the summer.

Root impressed when given his chance in the middle order for the final Test of the series and has since made his Twenty20 and ODI bows.

His temperament and ability to contribute both in the field and with the ball have earned him rave reviews from the England management, who will be keen to see more of him in different conditions.

With Ian Bell's place secure England will probably take just one more batsman, with Jonny Bairstow in position to fill that role as well as deputising for wicketkeeper Matt Prior.

Bairstow withdrew from the India one-day series due to a family illness, but it is understood he will be back for New Zealand.

That spells bad news for Eoin Morgan and Samit Patel, who are expected to miss out.

Patel played the first three Tests in India, where his left-arm spin and batting style were considered important, but he has not done enough to force his way in to the side outside of the sub-continent.

Morgan, meanwhile, does not appear close to a Test recall.

He travelled with the squad before Christmas but was overlooked in favour of Patel and then Root and may instead find himself freed up to take part in the Indian Premier League.

If England do opt against further rotation, then James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn and Graeme Swann pick themselves.

Monty Panesar remains second-choice spinner despite James Tredwell's excellent displays in the one-day side this month, and the seam attack should be completed by Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions.

The latter has played just one Test since January 2010 following devastating injury problems, but could find himself in with a good chance of a place in the starting XI due to the indifferent form of Broad and Bresnan.

England Test squad for New Zealand (probable): AN Cook (capt), NRD Compton, IJL Trott, KP Pietersen, IR Bell, JE Root, MJ Prior (wkt), JM Bairstow (wkt), SCJ Broad, GP Swann, ST Finn, JM Anderson, TT Bresnan, G Onions, MS Panesar.