New Zealand have named an unchanged squad for their must-win third Test against South Africa, starting in Hamilton on Saturday, after Ross Taylor was deemed unfit for selection.
Taylor went down with a calf muscle tear in the drawn first Test in Dunedin, which ruled him out of the second Test, which New Zealand lost by eight wickets to go 1-0 down in the three-match series. New Zealand had hoped for Taylor to gain match fitness in time for the third Test, at a venue where the 33 year old has scored four of his 16 Test centuries including an unbeaten 102 in his last outing against Pakistan in November last year.
Trent Boult, however, found a place in the squad of 14 despite continuing to feel soreness in his upper leg, and was far from being a certainty in the starting XI.
There was also an opportunity for Tom Latham, the out-of-form opening batsman, to revive his career as the selectors stuck to their reputation of backing the regulars. Latham has failed to cross 10 in his last eight international innings.
“We have faith in them (the 14), we think they are the best group of Test cricketers in the country,” said Gavin Larsen, the national selector, on Monday (March 20). “We have 100% faith in Tom. We think he’s a classy player. He’s in a rut, no doubt about that, but his numbers speak for themselves. He’s working hard. Internally, I’m sure he’s feeling it, anyone would.”
Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme, the allrounders, have also been below par, especially with the bat, but Larsen backed them. “The allrounders will be the first to admit that their run output hasn’t been enough,” said Larsen. “The reason we play a couple of allrounders was to stiffen up the batting and it didn’t quite transpire that way down at No. 8. There is work to do and we must get run production through that area.”
There was a thought that Ish Sodhi, the legspinner, could be drafted in on his home ground, but the selectors argued that they already had the best spinners in the mix – Jeetan Patel, the offspinner, and Mitchell Santner, the left-arm spinner.
“We talk about all the options,” said Larsen. “Yes, he was talked about alongside many other players but we believe we have the right spin combination.”
Squad: Kane Williamson (capt), Jeet Raval, Tom Latham, Neil Broom, Henry Nicholls, James Neesham, BJ Watling (wk), Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme, Tim Southee, Jeetan Patel, Matt Henry, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult.