New Zealand have announced their squad for the upcoming two Test series against Pakistan. The Black Caps have recalled left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner while dropping fellow spinner Ajaz Patel as they look to bolster their chances of making it to the ICC World Test Championship final (WTC).
An integral part of New Zealand’s limited-overs squads, Santner has not played a Test since the Boxing Day Test against Australia last year. Recently, he was called up as a cover for the first Test against West Indies when Ajaz was still rehabilitating from his calf injury. Later, Ajaz joined the squad for the second Test but did not recover fully to make the cut. And he has been ignored once again due to the lack of game time since the injury layoff.
“It’s really unfortunate for Ajaz, who has overcome his calf-injury, but the all-round ability of Mitchell Santner is our preferred option for this series,” New Zealand head coach Gary Stead said. “The fact Ajaz hasn’t been able to have any game-time in the lead-up was also a concern for the selectors.”
Talking about the WTC table, New Zealand are currently at the third spot behind India and Australia. Having whitewashed India and West Indies at home earlier this year, New Zealand will have a chance to further make progress in their quest to make it to the final. If they beat Pakistan by 2-0 margin and India continue to struggle Down Under, the Black Caps will definitely be in a good position.
“Our rise through the Test rankings is a great achievement, but we know the challenge is now to back that up against a quality Pakistan side. It’s really exciting to see so much interest in the Test team and I know both games at Bay Oval and Hagley Oval will be special occasions for all involved,” Stead said.
New Zealand will be also bolstered by the return of their talismanic captain Kane Williamson, who missed the second Test against West Indies due to paternity leave. Williamson recently returned to action during the second T20I against Pakistan. Devon Conway has made way for Williamson while Will Young retains his spot in the squad as batting cover.
New Zealand Squad:
Kane Williamson (c), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling (wk), Will Young