All-rounder James Neesham and off-spinner Jeetan Patel have been recalled for the Test squad to face South Africa, starting on 8 March.
Both players have had adequate ODI stints against the Proteas, with Neesham’s 71 not out helping the Black Caps to victory in Christchurch. Patel received a call-up for their series-levelling match in Hamilton and took 2-57 to help restrict SA to 279-8 as his side claimed a seven-wicket victory.
Patel, after sitting out for almost four years, made a Test comeback against India last year and has been selected ahead of leg-spinner Ish Sodhi. He was brought into the New Zealand ODI side to target South Africa’s left-handed batsmen. He went on to dismiss Quinton de Kock for a duck off his first delivery in the fourth ODI.
New Zealand haven’t selected two spinners in the starting lineup at the University Oval in Dunedin in seven Tests and are unlikely to do so in the first Test against South Africa. With Mitchell Santner in the side, Patel will be expected to play a cover role.
‘Jeetan brings the ability to spin the ball away from the left-handers, which complements our other spinner in Mitchell Santner nicely. He brings a huge amount of experience to the team and gives us the balance of having two front-line spin options,’ said selector Gavin Larsen.
Neesham will provide an extra option for the all-rounder spot. The 26-year old has played 10 Tests for his side, scoring 683 runs @ 37.94, including two centuries and four half centuries. He has also managed to pick up 12 wickets at an average of 46.00. He hasn’t played a Test since October 2016, when he scored 71 in New Zealand’s 321-run defeat in the third Test in India, which sealed a whitewash series win for the hosts.
Colin de Grandhomme was the man to replace Neesham in the side for the follow-up series against Pakistan. On his debut, the 30-year-old took 6-41 in the first innings to help bundle out the opposition for 133, and picked up another in the second innings to help his side to an eight-wicket victory. Since then he has taken only four wickets in six innings.
‘Jimmy has impressed so far this summer and we’ve seen improvement in his game,’ Larsen said. ‘He gives us another option and is also very familiar with the conditions at University of Otago Oval.’
Neil Wagner has returned after picking up a finger injury fielding off his own bowling for Otago on 1 Feb, and is available for selection. The 30-year-old Affies old boy has played 29 Tests, making his debut in 2012, and has 118 scalps to his name at an average of 28.58. He has been the leading wicket-taker for the Kiwis since their series against Australia in February 2016, taking 51 scalps at an average of 22.33.
‘Having Neil back and available is fantastic news for us. He’s been our leading wicket-taker in recent times and is a key player for us,’ Larsen added. ‘He’s worked extremely hard to get himself ready for the series and we expect him to be fit and ready come the first Test.’
Matt Henry and Dean Brownlie, who were in the side for the Bangladesh series, have been both been dropped.
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