TELFORD VICE, Auckland
SOUTH Africa could be re-acquainted with one of their own when their test series against New Zealand starts in Dunedin on Wednesday.
On Friday, Pretoria-born, raised and schooled Neil Wagner, having won a race against time after fracturing his finger on February 2, was named in the home side’s squad of 13 for the first test.
“Having Neil back and available is fantastic news for us,” selector Gavin Larsen was quoted as saying in a New Zealand Cricket release.
“Neil’s been our leading wicket-taker in recent times and is a key player for us.
“He’s worked extremely hard to get himself ready for the series and we expect him to be fit and ready to go come the first test.”
The South Africans should need no reminding of how dangerous the left-arm quick can be – he took 5/86 in the first innings of the Centurion test in August.
But Dunedin’s University Oval is not Centurion, with its challenging seam and swing.
The Basin Reserve in Wellington and Hamilton’s Seddon Park, where the other matches of the series will be played, also don’t measure up to Centurion in those terms.
Indeed, much could be read into the fact that off-spinner Jeetan Patel has been recalled to a squad that also includes left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner.
“Jeetan brings the ability to spin the ball away from the left-handers, which complements our other spinner in Mitchell Santner nicely,” Larsen was quoted as saying.
“He brings a huge amount of experience to the team and gives us the balance of having two front-line spin options.”
That could prove pivotal, what with both the pitches for the one-day internationals the teams have played in Hamilton offering prodigious turn.
Allrounder Jimmy Neesham returns to the test squad while middle order batsman Dean Brownlie and fast bowler Matt Henry have been dropped.
New Zealand test squad: Kane Williamson (captain), Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Tom Latham, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Jeetan Patel, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling.