The first of two tests for the Black Caps against Bangladesh begins on Tuesday afternoon in Sylhet and until the coin toss is made and captain Tim Southee is asked about team news, we can only speculate as to the make-up of the playing XI.
The squad features a number of World Cup performers and Gary Stead will have to balance white ball form with the needs of test cricket while weighing up what the conditions offer.
Bangladeshi conditions could allow for both Ish Sodhi and Ajaz Patel to feature as a twin specialist spin attack — rarely do we see more than one spinner, if any, when the Black Caps play at home.
Mitchell Santner had a tremendous World Cup in India, taking 16 wickets at an average of 28.06, but has played just a solitary test in the past three years, leaving Sodhi and Patel as front runners for the spinner spots.
The pair would then complement two fast bowlers, likely to be Southee and Kyle Jamieson. Jamieson has been selected in a test side for the first time since June last year when he injured his back.
Neil Wagner has been recalled into the squad but with a lack of recent international cricket under his belt Jamieson will likely get the nod. Perhaps look to see Wagner involved in the second test depending on how things turn out in Sylhet. Matt Henry has a hamstring injury and will take no part in the series.
New Zealand's Ajaz Patel bowls against Pakistan. Photo / AP
That means an all-rounder will be vital. Rachin Ravindra burst on to the international scene at the World Cup through his batting, but his ability to take wickets with the ball means he will edge ahead of Glenn Phillips in the pecking order. Phillips has also played just the one test and Ravindra’s batting approach is better suited to the test environment.
Also having a strong World Cup was Daryl Mitchell, who can take up duties with the ball as a seam option after the quicks. He and Ravindra will share a similar role as middle-order batting all-rounders.
The reason for Ravindra to be pushed a little further down the order for tests is that Tom Latham and Devon Conway are simply too accustomed to opening the batting against the red ball and Kane Williamson is unlikely to be usurped from his position at first drop.
Henry Nicholls is as dependable as they come at four and he and Williamson are the ideal pairing to steady the ship should the openers be dismissed early. Nicholls’ double ton against Sri Lanka in March came after a lean period of runs.
Five and six in the batting order will therefore be taken by Ravindra and Mitchell, whose performances at the World Cup were simply too good to leave out of the side.
Incumbent test keeper Tom Blundell comes in at seven with Tom Latham now fielding post-World Cup.
Potential Black Caps XI in batting order: Devon Conway, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, Henry Nicholls, Rachin Ravindra, Daryl Mitchell, Tom Blundell (wk), Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee (c), Ish Sodhi, Ajaz Patel.
Will Toogood is an online sports editor for the NZ Herald. He has previously worked for Newstalk ZB’s digital team and at Waiheke’s Gulf News, covering sports and events.
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