Watling cloud for Black Caps
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.
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.