In­juries open door for sea­soned Somerville

Hawke's Bay Today - - Sport - Cricket Niall An­der­son

The Black Caps have sprung a ma­jor sur­prise, call­ing vet­eran spin­ner Will Somerville into their test squad to play Pak­istan later this month.

Don’t know the name? You wouldn’t be alone, con­sid­er­ing Somerville only this year re­turned to New Zea­land cricket, af­ter spend­ing a decade in Aus­tralia.

Re­mark­ably, six of those years came with­out Somerville play­ing top-level cricket, with the Welling­ton-born 34-yearold play­ing grade cricket in Syd­ney from 2008-2014, be­fore be­ing picked for New South Wales.

There, the late bloomer shone in the 2016-2017 Sh­effield Shield, tak­ing 35 wick­ets at 23.14, but he found his op­por­tu­ni­ties lim­ited be­hind Aus­tralian test spin­ners Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe.

So, back to New Zea­land he came, link­ing up with Auck­land with the in­ten­tion of push­ing for a Black Caps spot, but it is a big sur­prise — and a def­i­nite re­flec­tion on New Zea­land’s thin spin­ning stocks — that his op­por­tu­nity has come this early.

How­ever, an in­jury to Todd As­tle — plus the ab­sence of Mitchell Sant­ner — pro­vided an open­ing for Somerville to join Ish Sodhi and Ajaz Pa­tel as the third spin­ner in the test squad.

Somerville, who took seven wick­ets in his two Plun­ket Shield games be­fore bowl­ing ad­e­quately but un­spec­tac­u­larly in the one-day Ford Tro­phy, re­places As­tle, with the un­lucky leg-spin­ner be­ing ruled out of the re­main­der of the tour. As­tle picked up the in­jury dur­ing the re­cent New Zea­land A one-day se­ries and se­lec­tor Gavin Larsen said he wouldn’t be able to cope with the work­load ex­pected in the ODI and test se­ries against Pak­istan.

“De­spite a pe­riod of rest, Todd’s knee has, un­for­tu­nately, not re­sponded as well as we had hoped,” said Larsen.

“The best course of ac­tion for Todd is to get home and get it looked at, with an eye to re­turn­ing in the home sum­mer.”

Larsen said Somerville had im­pressed the se­lec­tors since his re­turn.

“We’ve been keep­ing a close eye on Will and like the look of his all-round game and skillset.

“He bowls with good con­trol and vari­a­tion, while his added height means he gets that ex­tra bit of bounce.

“The test squad al­ready has a legspin­ner in Ish Sodhi and a left-arm spin­ner in Ajaz Pa­tel, so we think Will’s right arm off-spin will bal­ance out the at­tack nicely.”

Somerville will fly out to the UAE to­day to link up with the Black Caps ahead of the first test in Abu Dhabi on No­vem­ber 16.

Will Somerville

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