Watling cloud for Black Caps

Nelson Mail - - SPORT - MARK GEENTY

The fit­ness of wick­et­keeper BJ Watling is the only con­cern for New Zealand cricket coach Mike Hes­son af­ter he con­firmed a pre­dictable test squad to take on West Indies.

Watling was in­cluded with an as­ter­isk be­side his name in the Black Caps 12 for the first of two tests against Ja­son Holder’s tour­ing side at Welling­ton’s Basin Re­serve on De­cem­ber 1.

The ac­com­plished glove­man and likely test No 6 missed North­ern Dis­tricts’ last two Plun­ket Shield matches with a hip in­jury and was named in the squad for the fourth round start­ing to­day, but is still not 100 per cent.

It leaves Welling­ton’s Tom Blun­dell, named to keep wicket for New Zealand A in the tour opener at Lin­coln on Novem­ber 25, in line for a test de­but if Watling doesn’t re­cover.

Selec­tor Gavin Larsen said Watling would be mon­i­tored and eval­u­ated over the com­ing week.

‘‘Aside from a ques­tion mark over BJ, we have a fully fit squad who have all shown they have what it takes to per­form at test level,’’ said Larsen.

Af­ter strong per­for­mances in their most re­cent series, a rain­marred 1-0 de­feat to South Africa at home in March, it was a straight­for­ward test squad to pick.

All­rounder Colin de Grand­homme re­tains his spot, Mit- chell Sant­ner is the only spin­ner and the pace front­line of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wag­ner is re­united with Matt Henry the likely backup.

From the drawn third test in Hamil­ton in March, Ross Tay­lor, Boult and Southee re­turn af­ter miss­ing that match with in­jury while off­spin­ner Jee­tan Pa­tel has re­tired from in­ter­na­tional cricket.

Fringe bats­man Martin Gup­till will cap­tain an ex­cit­ing New Zealand A side with a whirl­wind pace trio in the three-day tour opener.

Gup­till, push­ing for a test mid­dle or­der spot, will lead a side in­clud­ing fel­low mid­dle or­der as­pi­rant Colin Munro and the fastest pace at­tack New Zealand can as­sem­ble: Adam Milne, Lockie Fer­gu­son and all­rounder Scott Kuggeleijn.

Fer­gu­son is rest­ing for Auck- land’s Plun­ket Shield game this week af­ter snar­ing 12-78 in the win over Otago and rock­et­ing to the top of the wicket charts, while Kuggeleijn is an all­rounder con­tender for later in the sum­mer af­ter mak­ing his ODI de­but in Ire­land this year.

‘‘Watch­ing the three quick­est bowlers in New Zealand op­er­at­ing to­gether will cer­tainly be ex­cit­ing, and all three have plenty to play for,’’ Larsen said. ‘‘We are look­ing to de­velop Martin’s lead­er­ship ca­pa­bil­i­ties and the NZ A match is an­other good op­por­tu­nity.’’

Bats­man Dean Brown­lie and swing bowler Seth Rance were not con­sid­ered due to in­jury.

STUFF

Af­ter miss­ing the last two Plun­ket Shield rounds with a hip in­jury, test wick­et­keeper BJ Watling will be closely watched in the leadup to the first test against West Indies on De­cem­ber 1.

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