Sac­ri­fice, pa­tience pay off for Somerville

The Southland Times - - Sport - Mark Geenty

Will Somerville fought back tears as he spoke of the emo­tion of a po­ten­tial New Zea­land test cricket de­but at the age of 34 this month.

Thir­teen years af­ter his first­class de­but for Otago, off­spin­ner Somerville is within touch­ing dis­tance of his first cap.

Welling­ton-born Somerville, who was tipped as an Aus­tralian test con­tender in early 2017 af­ter a pro­lific sea­son for New South Wales, is bound for the United Arab Emi­rates to re­place luck­less legspin­ner Todd As­tle in the test squad to face Pak­istan.

As­tle was ruled out of the tour on Thurs­day with a knee in­jury, an­other cruel blow af­ter he missed the sec­ond and de­cid­ing test against Eng­land in April with a side strain.

It opened the door for the tow­er­ing fig­ure of Somerville af­ter just two Plun­ket Shield matches for Auck­land, hav­ing quit NSW to chase se­lec­tion for his coun­try of birth.

‘‘I was in­cred­i­bly emo­tional [on Thurs­day] when I heard about it. My fam­ily’s made a lot of sac­ri­fices to come here with my chil­dren. It’s been a long time com­ing and my dad al­ways told me ‘your ca­reer is a les­son in per­sis­tence’. That’s some­thing I’ve held onto, per­sist­ing and try­ing to get bet­ter,’’ Somerville said yes­ter­day.

‘‘It’s ob­vi­ously ex­cite­ment but it does mean a hell of a lot. It’s more than just a game of cricket. It’s been my life for five years and since I was a kid I’ve been try­ing to do this. To get there this late makes it a bit sweeter.’’

Somerville moved to Syd­ney with his fam­ily as a young­ster then crossed the Tas­man again to study ac­count­ing at the Univer­sity of Otago.

He re­turned to Syd­ney and was in the frame for test se­lec­tion af­ter tak­ing 35 Sh­effield Shield wick­ets at 23 for NSW in 2016-17. But he strug­gled for op­por­tu­ni­ties last sum­mer be­hind in­ter­na­tional spin­ners Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe.

At for­mer Black Caps cap­tain Daniel Vet­tori’s rec­om­men­da­tion, Auck­land coach Mark O’Don­nell snapped up Somerville for the Aces and he snared seven wick­ets in his first two shield matches last month. From 18 first-class matches Somerville has 62 wick­ets at 26.75.

Se­lec­tor Gavin Larsen said Somerville had im­pressed the se­lec­tors and would com­ple­ment legspin­ner Ish Sodhi and left-arm or­tho­dox Ajaz Pa­tel in the squad for the three-test se­ries start­ing in Abu Dhabi on No­vem­ber 16. New Zea­land are highly likely to pick two front­line spin­ners in their XI on the UAE dust­bowls.

‘‘We’ve been keep­ing a close eye on Will and like the look of his all­round game and skill-set,’’ Larsen said.

Mean­while, As­tle, 32, will re­turn home to Christchurch to have his in­jured right knee looked at by a spe­cial­ist. He picked up the in­jury dur­ing the re­cent New Zea­land A one-day se­ries and 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,’’ Larsen said.

‘‘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.’’

Will Somerville has leapt into Black Caps con­tention af­ter only two matches for Auck­land.

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