Black Caps’ prob­lems are all-round

Nelson Mail - - SPORT - MARK GEENTY

Both all-rounders Jimmy Nee­sham and Colin de Grand­homme could be on shaky ground this week as New Zealand try to con­jure an XI to some­how take South Africa to the wire in Hamil­ton.

Selec­tor Gavin Larsen con­firmed an un­changed 14-man squad for the third cricket test, start­ing at Sed­don Park on Satur­day, as they search for an­swers after a meek eight-wicket de­feat in Welling­ton.

There was good news and bad news on the in­jury front, too, with key bats­man Ross Tay­lor’s sea­son of­fi­cially over with a torn calf but main strike bowler Trent Boult rated a strong chance of re­turn­ing from a hip/groin in­jury.

‘‘He’s a work in progress and we’re con­fi­dent we can get Boulty onto the park for day one,’’ Larsen said. ‘‘He had a bowl yes­ter­day and I un­der­stand he came through that well. He’s be­ing mon­i­tored very closely and will be a day by day propo­si­tion.’’

Which is en­cour­ag­ing for New Zealand’s chances of tak­ing 20 wick­ets, and lev­el­ling the se­ries 1-1, but still leaves ques­tions around the bowl­ing mix and how they’ll score enough runs with­out Tay­lor when they posted 439 across two in­nings at the Basin Re­serve.

Spin looks cer­tain to play a role in Hamil­ton, with the strong like­li­hood Mitchell Sant­ner will re­turn to part­ner Jee­tan Pa­tel as in the drawn first test in Dunedin.

Legspin­ner Ish Sodhi was con­sid­ered, on a ground he’s ex­celled, but sur­pris­ingly wasn’t thrown into the mix. ‘‘We be­lieve we’ve got the best spin­ners at the mo­ment in that group,’’ Larsen said.

That means Nee­sham and de Grand­homme could po­ten­tially both be dropped from the XI who bum­bled their way through Satur­day, los­ing six wick­ets to Ke­shav Ma­haraj’s spin on a pace bowler’s pitch.

Nei­ther all­rounder cov­ered them­selves in glory with the bat when they were in­cluded to bol­ster the or­der in Tay­lor’s ab­sence. Nee­sham (15 and 4) stretched out of his crease in the first in­nings then played an aw­fully loose shot, while de Grand­homme (4 and 0) charged down the pitch first up then was beaten a very long way by one that straight­ened from Ma­haraj.

For­mer skip­per Bren­don McCul­lum cer­tainly be­lieves both all­rounders should go, push­ing Sant­ner up to six and play­ing both spin­ners and front­line quicks Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wag­ner, in his test XI he picked on Twit­ter.

‘‘Horses for cour­ses. Need 20 wick­ets,’’ he wrote.

The big­gest worry for coach Mike Hes­son is that short­ens up the bat­ting which is the main area of con­cern, after they lost 12 wick­ets to spin in Welling­ton where it wasn’t turn­ing. It would mean either Southee or Pa­tel at eight which seems dan­ger­ously high.

Sant­ner av­er­ages 25 in test cricket, scored an in­ter­minable four at No 8 in Dunedin but has his two high­est test scores in the past six months: 71 in Kan­pur in Septem­ber and 73 against Bangladesh in Welling­ton in Jan­uary.

Larsen said sev­eral op­tions would be ex­plored once they saw the pitch.

‘‘We think we’ve got the best group of test crick­eters in the coun­try.

‘‘His­tory would sug­gest, this sea­son in par­tic­u­lar, that it has turned up there. We haven’t or­dered the pitch to turn, it’s just the re­al­ity and that’s the way it’s been pan­ning out and we’ve picked our team ac­cord­ingly, sim­i­lar to Dunedin.’’

The other op­tion would be to drop Southee, as they did in Dunedin, or Wag­ner after he wasn’t at his best in Welling­ton, and play two front­line quicks with Nee­sham as fifth bowler.

Nee­sham has two wick­ets in the se­ries at 61.5, off 28.3 overs, and still doesn’t ap­pear to have the full faith of skip­per Kane Wil­liamson.

PHOTO: DIANNE MANSON/GETTY IM­AGES

Key strike bowler Trent Boult is on track to come in for the third test in Hamil­ton.

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