Kane Williamson returns as New Zealand’s Test captain for the two-Test series against Pakistan that begins in his hometown Mount Maunganui from December 26. New Zealand have also named left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner in the Test squad.
Williamson missed the second Test against West Indies to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Devon Conway, who became eligible to play for New Zealand earlier this year, makes way for Williamson in the squad with Will Young remaining as the batting cover.
Left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel, who played a significant role in New Zealand’s win against Pakistan in the UAE two years back, has been left out. Patel missed the West Indies series as he was rehabilitating from his calf injury and Santner was brought in as cover.
Patel returned for the second Test but hadn’t fully recovered. Lack of match practice since injury layoff led to his overlooking.
“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. The fact Ajaz hasn’t been able to have any game-time in the lead-up was also a concern for the selectors,” clarified New Zealand’s coach Gary Stead.
New Zealand’s chance to make it to another Lord’s final
New Zealand’s 2-0 series win over West Indies earlier this month helped them climb to the third position in the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) Points Table. Another clean sweep, along with India’s heavy defeat in Australia, could see New Zealand through to the WTC final at the Lord’s, the venue where they played the memorable 2019 World Cup final.
“It doesn’t get much bigger than a Boxing Day Test on your home ground,” said New Zealand left-arm pacer Neil Wagner, the world’s third-ranked Test bowler. “The Test team have played some really good cricket of late and to have an opportunity to push for a World Test Championship Final is truly exciting.”
The struggling Pakistan side will miss their skipper Babar Azam and opener Imam-ul-Haq in the first Test. Both the cricketers fractured their thumbs during their training session in Queensland. Mohammad Rizwan will captain the side.
New Zealand’s Test 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 YoungPublished 22 Dec 2020, 08:54 IST