South Africa in New Zealand 2016-17 March 20, 2017

New Zealand will stick to same squad for Hamilton


The depth of New Zealand's batting line-up has not delivered so far in the series © Getty Images

New Zealand will not seek a quick fix after losing their first home Test in the summer and confirmed they will not make any changes to the squad ahead of a must-win Test in Hamilton. The same group that lost to South Africa in three days at the Basin Reserve will be expected to step up at Seddon Park, with Ross Taylor unavailable as he continues to struggle with a low-grade calf tear sustained in the first Test. Trent Boult is a "work in progress" after picking up an upper-leg injury and there is no space for legspinner Ish Sodhi, who was being touted to play on what is expected to be a slow surface.

"We've got 100% faith in the fact that we've got what we think are the best group of Test cricketers in the country," Gavin Larsen, New Zealand's selector said. "It's about getting into Hamilton, getting the covers off, having a look at the pitch, having a look at some balance, thinking about what transpired down here in Wellington and about the best way to beat a very good South African team. I am very confident the coach and captain will come up with the right XI on the day."

The selection conundrums lie in the lower order and the bowling attack, with all eyes on whether Boult will return to lead it. Boult sat out the second Test but returned to bowling and should be fit which will lead to yet another change in the make-up of New Zealand's bowling. They have plenty of choice with four seamers - Boult, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Matt Henry, two specialist spinners in Jeetan Patel and Mitchell Santner, who is also regarded as one of the three allrounders alongside Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme - but have yet to find the perfect combination.

In Dunedin, New Zealand opted for two spinners and two seamers, leaving out Southee to make room for Patel. In Wellington, Southee returned but Boult's injury saw them look past Matt Henry and include de Grandhomme, who sat out the first Test because Jimmy Neesham was preferred. In both instances, New Zealand tried to give themselves batting depth but both times they were disappointed.

Neesham scored 7 in Dunedin and 15 and 4 in Wellington; de Grandhomme managed 4 and 0 at the Basin Reserve and Larsen expects more from both of them. "The allrounders will be the first to admit that their run output hasn't been enough. 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," he said.

More so because runs are not coming at the top, where Tom Latham has 24 runs in the series and after scoring 0, 2 and 0 in the ODIs. Without any viable replacements, Latham's position is not in any real doubt, though. He spent Monday in the nets with batting coach Craig McMillan working on the technical glitch that has seen him nick off in his last three Test innings, and Larsen tips him to come good in Hamilton.

"He is a classy player, a great individual and part of our leadership team. He is in a rut and he is battling a bit with his form but we believe he has got the character and the work ethic to work himself out of this rut," Larsen said. "If there were a number of candidates around the country who were absolutely shooting the lights out and putting in front of the selectors really compelling reasons that we needed to consider them and pick them, we would have had that conversation. But as you know, there aren't a lot of openers out there shooting the lights out."

Tom Latham's poor form spilled into the Tests from the ODIs © AFP

Neither are there that many other batsmen breaking down the door in other positions. Colin Munro was considered a front-runner to step in for Taylor but New Zealand opted for someone with more first-class experience in Neil Broom. Broom had a forgettable debut after falling for a four-ball duck in the first innings but his 20 in the second dig showed Larsen some good signs that he could develop into a Test batsman.

"In the first innings, he was really unlucky. He got a real peach of a delivery, a jaffa, and that can happen," Larsen said. "In the second innings, I thought he got his innings underway really well. It was testing against the ball that was moving around. Vernon Philander bowled extremely well to him and he navigated that successfully so it was disappointing when he nicked off for 20. Again, it was to a good one so we have faith that Neil will do the job at No. 4."

Broom probably only has one more Test to prove that because once Taylor is ready to play, Larsen confirmed he would slot back into the XI. "His (Taylor's) experience and his class is just so evident and he would have been straight back into the unit," he said. But New Zealand will have to wait nine months to see Taylor in whites again.

Their next Test assignment is scheduled for December when they host West Indies. That may put extra emphasis on the result of the Hamilton Test and so, they need to recover from Wellington as quickly as possible and commit to an overall improvement. "We need more runs, the bowling needs to be tidied up and I just want to see a greater fight which I think is a hallmark of the good Black Cap teams," Larsen said.

They also need their coach Mike Hesson, who laid low with an illness, back on his feet. Hesson was unable to attend the third day's play or address the media post-match but is on the mend. "He is not flash. He suffered. He is looking a shadow of his former self. I think he has lost a couple of kilograms," Larsen said. "But he is a fighter and a damn resilient character."

If New Zealand are to share the series spoils, they need to be those things too.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jon on March 24, 2017, 2:17 GMT

    Nikko, I'm a fan of Neesham. Not as big a fan as you are, since you spend 90% of your time here either defending him or extolling his virtues. But yeah I think they'll drop him for Santner. The only thing that might save Jimmy is that he's a better option at 6 than de Grandhomme. But with Southee and Boult out my bet is they'll want CDG in the playing XI. For what it's worth, my preferred XI for this test would see the axe fall on Neesham and de Grandhomme (as well as Broom, Patel and Southee).

  •   Nikko Chunn on March 22, 2017, 23:11 GMT

    @Bishop - Indeed. Well said.... Albeit he can bowl well too (but is still finding feet from injury and struggling with confidence due to being underused)... @MIN70 - Santner!? On the basis of his runs or his wickets? Or is it neither!? Yes, we should play both spinners (it is Hamilton), but I would drop others before Neesham. It is also FAR easier to be picked again and again and again and THEN finally get a score and then suddenly be a world beater (Nicholls etc) because fans - and to a certain extent selectors - are grossly myopic and/or simply have the memory of a sieve.... If they had never dropped Neesham for a weak series vs Pakistan in the UAE - despite his hundreds initially, his 50s, then 72 (run out), his 85 vs SL... then later dropped again after 70-odd (and was not out - pre-DRS) vs India in India (would Nicholls have been? Ronchi?) - then the kid would have re-delivered and being in the team 24/7 except for injury. Non-persistence with any1 like Neesham = suicide / stupid

  • Beau on March 22, 2017, 5:30 GMT

    @BLACKCAPSBEST: I take your point, but I don't mean the pitches so much as picking Patel in place of first Sodhi, then Southee, then Santner. The first seemed like a good idea when he got rid of QDK in the ODIs, but in hindsight would Sodhi have done worse than averaging 50 or whatever for the Test series? Even if he did, it would have been good for his development, and for NZ finding balance in a side with him in it. I know you and I don't see eye-to-eye on Southee, but his absence led directly to Boult's injury, which is a complete disaster for NZ's chances of matching SA and could turn into a catastrophe if he has trouble getting back to his best like he has after previous injuries. And Santner, dull as he may be, can soak pressure both as a bowler and a lower-order bat. How different that last Test could have been had he hung with Watling through that tough hour or two where everything fell apart on day three. Let's not even mention him keeping Henry on the sidelines...

  • johnthekiwi on March 22, 2017, 0:23 GMT

    @Bishop: Neesham was injured for awhile there so it did influence his availability. My problem with him is that I don't believe either he or Anderson can play legitimate quicks very well. He is tremendously talented and I hope he is persisted with and gets that part of his game squared away. At some point in the hopefully not too distant future we might have Milne and Ferguson in the test line up to hurry batsmen up and it is going to be crucial to have a fourth seamer to keep their workload down.

  • Beau on March 21, 2017, 23:27 GMT

    @TRINITARION: True! For the most part, SA fans are great in my experience. Pretty similar to we kiwi fans, actually: Much more interested in bagging their own side and predicting disaster at every turn.

  • Yasein on March 21, 2017, 21:16 GMT

    @SAMEOLD Wouldnt call it a flawed plan. Rabada and Philander would run through us like they ran through the Aussies.

  • Brian on March 21, 2017, 20:35 GMT

    I don't think it's true that there are no viable replacements for Latham and with him so out of touch at the moment the big problem (especially with Ross Taylor out) is that Kane Williamson is being exposed to the new ball far too early. That made a massive difference in the Wellington test. That said, once he's sorted himself out I do believe Latham will be our test opener for many years to come.

  • Alan on March 21, 2017, 15:38 GMT

    SAMEOLD: SA fans hardly need to put the boot in: this is being done with great relish by your fellow Kiwis.

  • Sriram on March 21, 2017, 15:00 GMT

    But for in India , Proteas have win everywhere. When they conquer India in India they will be at par with the 80s Windies and Aussies in Millenium. Will that happen its hard to say!

  • Jon on March 21, 2017, 9:16 GMT

    @Fourth_stump, I can only find one comment that mentioned large NZ third innings scores of 500 at the basin -- from one person, not from kiwi fans as you assert. Also I was unable to understand your last sentence so I'm afraid I'm going to have to deduct some points. Overall I scored your troll a 3/10.

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