New Zealand will be without Mitchell Santner when they take on England in a two-match Test series after the allrounder was ruled out of action for six to nine months with a knee injury.
Santner, whose all-round contribution was one of New Zealand’s highlights in the 3-2 One-Day International series defeat against England, experienced discomfort on his right knee during the series and a scan at the time showed a bone defect.
A further scan revealed that the defect had deteriorated further, and he will undergo a surgery this week.
“On a personal level everyone feels for Mitchell. He’s a popular guy in the changing room and he’s well respected for the work he puts in for the side,” said Mike Hesson, the New Zealand coach.
“Mitchell is a key player in all three formats for us, so we’ll certainly miss him in the upcoming series. It’s important though that he gets this fixed and we have him back for what is a big next 18 months for us.”
Meanwhile, in a 12-member squad announced on Tuesday (March 13), BJ Watling, the wicketkeeper-batsman, will mark his return from a hip injury after having missed the two-match Test series against Windies in December. The 32-year-old will take over the glove duty from Tom Blundell, who did a fine job of deputising in his debut against Windies.
Santner’s absence opens up the door for Todd Astle, the legspinning-allrounder, who played the last of his two Tests in November 2016. Meanwhile, Ross Taylor is expected to be match-ready after the thigh injury ruled him out of the deciding ODI in Christchurch.
“Having another spin bowling allrounder in Todd is of real benefit for us and he’ll be looking forward to his opportunity,” said Gavin Larsen, the chief selector. “Being involved in the first day-night Test in New Zealand is really exciting and there’s always something special about playing England. They have match winners throughout their squad so we expect a challenging series.”
Watling, who averages 38.05 from 52 Tests, was sidelined from keeping wickets for 11 months since the South Africa Test series last season. “BJ is a proven performer at Test level for us and brings a lot to the group both on and off the field,” said Larsen.
“We’ve monitored BJ’s progress over the past few months and it’s great to see him back with the gloves for Northern Districts. Tom Blundell did a great job in BJ’s absence and we’ll keep working with him going forward.”
The squad also comprises of a couple of Test specialists, Jeet Raval, and Neil Wagner, who will form a solid quartet along with Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Matt Henry.
The players not involved in the New Zealand XIs that will play two warm-up matches against Joe Root’s men, will head to Tauranga for a training camp ahead of the day-night Test at Eden Park which starts on March 22.
Squad: Jeet Raval, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (capt), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Colin de Grandhomme, BJ Watling (wk), Todd Astle, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Matt Henry, Trent Boult.