England vs New Zealand: Jamie Overton set for Test debut in place of James Anderson as Ben Stokes allays fears

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England vs New Zealand: Jamie Overton set for Test debut in place of James Anderson as Ben Stokes allays fears
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Ben Stokes joined up with his England team-mates at training in Leeds today, allaying fears that he would miss tomorrow’s Third Test against New Zealand — but James Anderson was ruled out.

Jamie Overton comes in for his Test debut in Anderson’s place, with Stokes revealing that the 39-year-old had not overcome a “puffy ankle” in time to play.

That is the only change to England’s XI, with Jamie beating his twin brother Craig to a place in the side. Surrey’s Jamie, who has 21 wickets this season, is the quicker option of the two, who are now the first twins to play Test cricket for England men.

Anderson attempted to prove his fitness at training over the last two days, but with no risks being taken ahead of next week’s Test against India, he sits out.

He bowled just 8.4 overs in the second innings at Trent Bridge last week and, turning 40 next month, an abundance of caution is required when managing his body.

Captain Stokes was absent from England training yesterday with an undisclosed illness, sparking worries that he might be unavailable for his third Test since taking charge.

But he had a negative Covid test yesterday and was fine to return to camp ahead of training this morning, where he appeared to be suffering no ill effects. He bowled first, then batted — with trademark aggression.

Part of the concern over Stokes’ health stemmed from the fact that England do not yet have a vice-captain, so who would be in charge in his absence is unknown. Broad and former captain Joe Root would appear best qualified.

New Zealand will have to make changes to their team once more, with giant seamer Kyle Jamieson ruled out for four months with a back injury, and Kane Williamson returning from Covid-19.

Jamie Overton will make his England Test debut against New Zealand at Headingley (PA)
Jamie Overton will make his England Test debut against New Zealand at Headingley (PA)

Michael Bracewell and Devon Conway have also had positive tests since the Trent Bridge Test but are out of isolation and available to play. How they balance their side remains to be seen, but a return for Neil Wagner, who is yet to play this series, seems highly likely.

England lead the three-match series — their first under Stokes and new head coach Brendon McCullum — 2-0 after five-wicket wins at Lord’s and Trent Bridge.

At Trent Bridge last Tuesday, Jonny Bairstow smacked a remarkable 136 from 92 balls to win a high-scoring match in the final session.

While the third match is ostensibly a dead rubber, it is also part of a World Test Championship cycle that saw England win just one of their first 11 matches.

England face India next Friday at Edgbaston, completing a series that sits 2-1 to the tourists, but had to be paused last year due to Covid scares.

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