Boult rested; Nicholls earns maiden call-up
In an effort to manage workloads, New Zealand fast bowler Trent Boult has been rested for the first three matches of the five-ODI series against Sri Lanka starting on Boxing Day. Tim Southee will also have a couple of matches off, before joining the squad for the Nelson ODI on New Year's Eve.
Neither player was part of New Zealand's tours to Zimbabwe and South Africa earlier in the year: Boult was injured and Southee was rested. But they have played four back-to-back Tests since the start of November.
"He will have played five Tests in a row [including the next one in Hamilton]," coach Mike Hesson said of Boult. "It's a long season and we need some fresh legs steaming in come the first ODI at Hagley." Matt Henry comes into the squad for Southee in the first two matches, and he will have Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne and Doug Bracewell for company in the fast-bowling department.
The only new face among the 13 players picked was Henry Nicholls and Hesson was effusive in his praise of the 24-year-old batsman. "Henry has earned his spot through consistent performances over the last 12 months. Through the A campaign he was exceptional, certainly an outstanding player in all forms of the game. He's a player we see has class and a player who we want to expose to the international scene sooner rather than later."
It is Nicholls' first call-up to the New Zealand squad. He averages 44.07 after 34 List A matches, with eight fifties and a big hundred - 178 against Wellington in January. In fact, his 50-over career peaked in the 2014-15 season when he became the second-highest scorer in the Ford Trophy with 454 runs in eight matches at an average of 75.66 and a strike-rate of 105.82.
Nicholls has been a middle-order batsman for most of his domestic career and might get his New Zealand cap sooner rather than later considering allrounders Corey Anderson, James Neesham and Grant Elliott are still recovering from injuries.
Anderson has been playing in the Georgie Pie Super Smash for Northern Knights despite his bad back preventing him from bowling. "We are starting to increase his loads and he is likely to be considered for T20 cricket as a batsman, but we are hopeful that towards the back end of season he can play a role with the ball," Hesson said. "We are taking a cautious approach with his return to bowling crease. So far he's ticking the initial boxes."
Elliott had broken his hand recently, but stands a chance to make the team for the final two ODIs, according to Hesson. Neesham is still "a long way off from bowling," after hurting his back during the Brisbane Test against Australia.
"Elliott's cast is off and he batted a couple of times in the nets. He will likely return for [Wellington] Firebirds in Ford Trophy on December 27 and if he proves his fitness, we hope he can come into consideration for the latter part of the series."
New Zealand have a newish spin attack as well with left-arm allrounder Mitchell Santner and legspinner Ish Sodhi the only two frontline options picked. Nathan McCullum, who had announced he would retire from international cricket at the end of the season, was not picked for the ODIs.
"Nathan's unlikely to be considered for one-day cricket with his body," Hesson said "We see T20 about where his limit is. He's had a lot of back issues but we have a number of promising spinners, looking to tournaments ahead, Mitch Santner and Ish Sodhi are going to need some opportunities."
Sri Lanka have won only one ODI series since the start of 2015 - their last one against West Indies - and that run began with a defeat in New Zealand in January. Hesson is hopeful of a repeat.
"At home, we've been pretty hard to beat in last couple of years," he said. "Winning both one-day series [ODIs and T20Is] is an expectation we have of ourselves. We know Sri Lanka have talented batsmen and pretty wily campaigners with the ball. But we certainly rate our own skills in New Zealand conditions. We've got a few new faces so nice to expose them around some older heads. Hopefully they can prove they ready to go."