Sacrifice, patience pay off for Somerville
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.