New Zealand Test squad for Sri Lanka: Hits and Misses
New Zealand would derive confidence for the two-match Test series against Sri Lanka from their prized out victory in similar conditions against Pakistan last year in UAE.
With touring teams hardly winning Test matches in recent times, Kane Williamson & Boys will be in the limelight on this tour. Here's analysing New Zealand's 15-member squad for the two-match Test series:
In line with the adage of horses for courses, New Zealand have gone for four spinners in Todd Astle, Ajaz Patel, Will Somerville and Mitchell Santner. Two of them, Will Somerville and Ajaz Patel were the heroes of New Zealand's last away Test triumph, which was in UAE.
It was a match that saw them to a historic series win against Pakistan. Patel snaffled 13 wickets in the series, while Somerville bagged seven wickets in the Abu Dhabi Test itself.
This series also marks the return of Mitchell Santner, who brings quality along with him. The fourth choice is Tod Astle who just missed a World Cup spot.
"Playing three spinners is an option in Sri Lankan conditions and we believe this group provides the best variations and skill mix on offer. England were playing three spinners against Sri Lanka on their successful visit there last year and the slow bowlers also dominated the previous series against South Africa," New Zealand coach Gary Stead said, leading up to the tour.
Tom Latham returns to form
Tom Latham had been in great form in Tests and also notched up a double century, an unbeaten 264, against Sri Lanka. However, following his injury, he was completely out of touch in the first few matches in the World Cup.
The left-hander kept improving and ended as one of the best Kiwi batsmen in the knockouts. The fact that he opens the batting along with Jeet Raval makes him a vital cog in the New Zealand Test squad. His coming back to form at the right moment will be crucial for New Zealand.
The ever-reliable Kane Williamson
Kane Williamson has been super successful in each of the last three Test series that New Zealand have played. He was the highest run-scorer in the three-match Test series against Pakistan in UAE. Williamson scored 386 runs from six innings at an average of over 75. Against Sri Lanka, he scored 141 runs from three Test innings at an average of 47.
The skipper was New Zealand's highest scorer yet again in the series against Bangladesh with 274 runs from two innings at an average of 274. He recently led the Blackcaps to the World Cup and almost won the trophy for them. The fact that he is in full fitness and form will be a huge plus for New Zealand.
Tim Southee ahead of Lockie Ferguson
Tim Southee was the most successful bowler when Sri Lanka toured New Zealand for a two-match Test series. He picked up 13 wickets at an average of 16 and was in great rhythm. However, in the other two of the last three series that New Zealand have played, he has not been able to leave a mark.
On the UAE tour, he played just one match and pick up four wickets, while his is seven wickets came at an average of over 40 in the two Test matches against Bangladesh at home.
Southee has lost a considerable amount of pace and is hardly as effective as he used to be. In slow and dry conditions, there is a need for a tearaway pacer to extract something out of the placid surfaces. Hence, Lockie Ferguson or some other quick bowler would have been a way better option for New Zealand.
The inclusion of Colin de Grandhomme
Likewise, Colin De Grandhomme might be a good option in the conditions of New Zealand where the ball moves around, but taking him in the squad to Sri Lanka makes little sense.
Also, if you consider his batting, his technique is not very uptight and he can easily be found out on pitches which assist the spinners and the bat-pad can come into play instantly.
Sidelining Ish Sodhi
Ish Sodhi was on fire in the Global T20 Canada League and picked up eight wickets from just his first two matches. The leg spin of Sodhi would have also added another facet to the New Zealand spin attack which is under the danger of being a bit one-dimensional.
Additionally, Sodhi is a quality spinner and can make things happen even when the batsmen are under control. When there is a big partnership going on, who would like to bring in - Sodhi or Somerville?
New Zealand Squad: Kane Williamson (c), Todd Astle, Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Jeet Raval, Will Somerville, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling
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