Injuries put selections in a spin
de Grandhomme, Patel out of first test
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.