Charismatic New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson will make his long-awaited return to Test cricket during the Black Caps' tour of England commencing next month.
New Zealand Cricket (NZC) on Wednesday named a strong 20-member squad for the three-match series that starts at Lord's on June 2, with Williamson set to feature at the Test level for the first time since November last year.
Williamson has made a complete recovery from the elbow injury that saw him miss the drawn Test series against Bangladesh and South Africa and is currently leading Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The inclusion of the third-ranked player on the ICC Men's Test Batting Rankings will be a welcome addition to the Black Caps' side, who are currently in sixth place on the World Test Championship standings and in desperate need of adding some points.
Among those missing in the squad are the recently retired Ross Taylor and BJ Watling. The duo was part of the side that toured England as part of the successful World Test Championship touring party last year, where they defeated India in the final.
Experienced seamers Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner have also been included, while Tom Latham, Devon Conway and Williamson too 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.
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," Stead was quoted as saying by ICC. 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," he added.
"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 (capt), 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.
First Test: Lord's: June 2-6
Second Test: Trent Bridge: June 10-14
Third Test: Headingley: June 23-27