The Press

In­juries put se­lec­tions in a spin

de Grand­homme, Pa­tel out of first test

- An­drewVo­er­man an­drew.vo­er­man@stuff.co.nz Sports · Cricket · Gary Stead · West Indies · Trent Boult · Neil Wagner · India · Colin de Grandhomme · Wellington, New Zealand · Somerville · Kane Williamson · Mount Maunganui · Pakistan · Ajaz Patel · Daryl Mitchell

Mitchell Sant­ner’s re­turn to the Black Caps test squad could al­low coach Gary Stead to se­lect four front­line seam­ers for the first test against the West Indies in Hamil­ton next week.

Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, and Neil Wag­ner were all in­volved the last time the Black Caps played a test – a win over In­dia in March – but it ap­peared one of them was go­ing to have to make way.

Stead had said it would be ‘‘un­usual’’ not to in­clude a spin­ner in the play­ing XI be­fore se­lect­ing left-armer Ajaz Pa­tel as the only op­tion in the orig­i­nal 13-man squad for the two-test se­ries – an out-and-out bowler who has bat­ted no higher than No 10 in his eight tests so far.

While Jamieson has set his sights on be­com­ing an all-rounder and scored 44 and 49 against In­dia in his first two tests, as well as tak­ing 4-39 and 5-45, it would be a risky­move to in­stall him at No 7 at this stage of his ca­reer.

Tim Southee has scored a first­class cen­tury and would have been the other op­tion to bat that high in an XI in­clud­ing four seam­ers and Pa­tel, though that too would have been risky.

Then came yes­ter­day and the con­fir­ma­tion that Pa­tel and Colin de Grand­homme, the Black Caps’ reg­u­lar test No 7, would not be fit by next Thurs­day, when the first test starts, as they re­cover from calf and foot in­juries, re­spec­tively.

Daryl Mitchell was brought in as a like-for-like re­place­ment for de Grand­homme, fresh from a strong start to the Plun­ket Shield with his new team, Can­ter­bury, where he has made a cen­tury and taken the first five-wicket bag of his ca­reer.

Sant­ner was brought in for Pa­tel, who will still train with the team in Hamil­ton with a view to be­ing fit for the sec­ond test in Welling­ton the fol­low­ing week.

But while he’s like-for-like in that he’s a spin­ner, Sant­ner of­fers much more than Pa­tel with the bat. He scored a cen­tury from No 8 at Bay Oval last Novem­ber, has a test av­er­age of 26 and could eas­ily slot in at No 7 in­stead of Mitchell, open­ing the door for a four­pronged seam at­tack.

Stead said Sant­ner’s ‘‘lit­tle bit more’’ with the bat had put him in front of off­spin­ner Will Somerville, who got the nod ahead of him in Syd­ney at the start of the year, and ac­knowl­edged ‘‘he could’’ bat at No 7 if needed.

That leaves the coach and cap­tain Kane Wil­liamson with three op­tions as they con­sider the lower half of their play­ing XI – Sant­ner and all four seam­ers; Mitchell and all four seam­ers, but no spin­ner; or Mitchell, Sant­ner, and three of the four seam­ers, de Grand­homme and all four seam­ers, but no spin­ner, or de Grand­homme, three of the four seam­ers, and Pa­tel.

Cast­ing his eye for­ward – past the three Twenty20 in­ter­na­tion­als that are in store tomorrow, in Auck­land, and on Sun­day and Mon­day, in Mount Maun­ganui – Stead said it would come down to the con­di­tions at Sed­don Park.

Stead said they were tar­get­ting the Box­ing Day test against Pak­istan in Mount Maun­ganui for de Grand­homme’s re­turn, though if he made good ground, he could fea­ture in the T20 se­ries that be­gins on De­cem­ber 18.

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