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New Zealand call up uncapped Jeet Raval for Africa tour

New Zealand call up uncapped Jeet Raval for Africa tour
Ross Taylor makes a return to the New Zealand side after recovering from a side strain.
©REUTERS / Action Images

New Zealand Cricket have named a 16-man Test squad for the tour to Zimbabwe and South Africa that includes uncapped batsman Jeet Raval.

The New Zealand selectors have also recalled leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, who last played Test match in November 2014 against Pakistan in Sharjah.

Raval will be the third opening batsman in the side after Martin Guptill and Tom Latham.

The 27-year-old scored 780 runs from eight matches in the 2015-16 Plunkett Shield at an average of 55.71 including three centuries and two fifties, with a highest score of 202 not out.

Ross Taylor, who missed the Test series against Australia due to a side strain, will make a return for the tour and is likely to take up the spot vacated by the retirement of Brendon McCullum.

Apart from Sodhi, the other two spinners in the squad are Mark Craig and Mitchell Santner while both Luke Ronchi and BJ Watling are included as wicket-keepers.

Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Matt Henry, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner will be the five pace bowlers in the Black Caps squad who will compete for places in the final XI.

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson is confident that Raval is ready to make the transition to international cricket after a strong showing in domestic cricket in the recent years.

"Jeet (Raval) has been impressive in the Plunket Shield for a number of years now and in the last 12 months, we’ve seen his maturity and decision making continue to improve," Hesson said.

"He’s learnt to adapt to conditions and has performed well for New Zealand A, so we believe he’s more than ready to make the step up to the international arena."

Sodhi, who took 22 wickets from just four games in the 2015-16 Plunkett Shield, also earned praise from Hesson.

"Ish was outstanding in all formats during the second half of last season, beginning with his performances in the Plunket Shield for Northern Districts.

"He was also exceptional for us with the white ball last summer and that’s seen him gain valuable confidence on the international stage."

Hesson also added that the squad selected for the tour has the requisite balance for succeeding in the conditions New Zealand will face in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

"Having played in both Zimbabwe and South Africa last year, we have some insight into what the pitches could be like this time around and we’ve selected our squad accordingly.

"Playing two Tests in Harare, we need to be prepared for dry turning surfaces, but also know that Durban often has a good covering of grass."

Between 29th July and 31st August, New Zealand will play two Tests against Zimbabwe in Harare and as many games against South Africa in Durban and Centurion respectively.

The New Zealand squad will leave for South Africa on 11th July where they will undergo an eight-day training camp in Johannesburg following which they will depart for Zimbabwe.

New Zealand squad for Zimbabwe, South Africa Tests:

Kane Williamson (capt), Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Mark Craig, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling.

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