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Fight for places in England’s Test squad intensifies as ECB prepare to hire new coach

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ngland hopefuls have just two more rounds of County Championship action, the first starting on Thursday, to make their case for Test selection against New Zealand in four weeks’ time.

England are set to name their first squad of the summer on May 17 or 18, around 10 days before they join up at Lord’s for Ben Stokes’ first Test in charge, which begins on June 2.

As things stand, the squad is set to be picked by an interim panel including managing director Rob Key, head scout James Taylor, skipper Stokes, and performance director Mo Bobat.

However, that could change if a Test coach is appointed promptly. Applications for that close this Friday, with interviews taking place next week.

After any negotiations have taken place an appointment is possible within a week of the first interviews, meaning the new coach could have input on selection. Whether they are actually in charge for the First Test, or an interim has to take over, remains to be seen.

Some players have just a single game to make their case for the squad. With just 14 of the 18 counties in action this week, and 16 next week. That leaves the likes of Zak Crawley and Craig Overton have one more game to impress, while Dan Lawrence and Saqib Mahmood are missing from their county sides this week due to injury.

Stokes has already made it clear that he will have considerable say in selection, and has made some decisions already, such as moving himself back to No6 and recalling James Anderson and Stuart Broad to the squad (although there is no guarantee they play together).

Coming into calculations will be the ODI squad for the three-match series against the Netherlands in mid-May. Those games come between the Second and Third Tests against New Zealand, with no players involved in both squads. Led by Eoin Morgan, a squad is likely to be named for that series in early June, and it could feature some new faces.

By then, Key may have appointed a white-ball head coach too. That would leave a national selector as his only remaining major appointment.

Speaking at Lord’s last week, Key accepted that a decisions on who to trust as selector were among the trickiest facing him.

Ed Smith, his former Kent teammate, was fired 13 months ago – after three years in charge – with then MD Ashley Giles making the position redundant and handing selection responsibility to coach Chris Silverwood.

Key is clear that he wants that to change, but qualifications for the role are not immediately obvious, and he is happy to take his time.

“I want to go back to a selector,” he said. “But it’s the only thing I can’t really tell you. I haven’t got an answer for it now in my head as to who that person is.

“But selection is very different from when I played and it’s not about some person that just goes to watch a few games. There’s a lot of scouts now. There’s a whole network. There’s a whole system where you can watch a players’ journey just on an app from under-15s all the way through to playing for England.

It’s a very, very important job and all I can say is that we won’t rush to get that person in place.

“And you need someone who is going to coordinate all of that stuff, all the analysis, all the scouting, with the captain and coach. You need someone who can get all of that data and work as a group and come up with the best solution for the best team.

“I don’t know who that person is, to be honest. But it’s a very, very important job and all I can say is that we won’t rush to get that person in place. I’d rather have someone really good at it, than rush it and have someone who’s not because it’s a tricky job that one. But it’s a rewarding job if they can do it.

“Until then, though, I’m pretty happy with the process that we’ll have in place with the people that are already involved in selection. If you need someone to point the gun at, you can point it at me as it doesn’t really bother me.”

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