NAPIER: Amid Ajaz Patel’s return to fitness, New Zealand have retained spinner Mitchell Santner in their Test squad to face Pakistan in their two-match series, head coach Gary Stead said on Tuesday.
Santner was taken into the West Indies Test squad last month to replace Patel and played against the Caribbean side in the Twe-nty20 Internationals as well as last week in a game against Pakistan.
Stead said choosing Santner over Patel was the hardest choice they had to make, but as he had a few matches under his belt going into the series, he decided on Santner.
“That basically came down to the side’s balance and we wanted to have a spinning all-rounder as an option for that number seven position with the four-strong pace attack going so nicely,” Stead said. For Ajaz, who has overcome his calf injury, it is very disappointing, but Mitchell Santner’s all-round capacity is our preferred choice for this series.
The truth that Ajaz may not get any game-time in the lead-up was also a problem for the selectors.
After skipping the second test with West Indies to attend the birth of his first child, Captain Kane Williamson returns.
The first test will be played on Saturday at Mount Maunganui, while the second will be played on January 3 in Christchurch.
New Zealand are third behind Australia and India in the World Test Championship rankings. In qualifying for the final at Lord’s next year, a series sweep over Pakistan will give them a lift.
Because of broken thumbs, Pakistan skipper Babar Azam and opener Imam-ul-Haq were ruled out of the first Test, with Mohammad Rizwan taking over the captaincy.
Squad: Captain Kane Williamson, Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, B.J. Watling, Will Young, Mitchell Santner.