Todd Astle in New Zealand Test squad
The uncapped legspinner Todd Astle has been named in New Zealand's Test squad for their upcoming tour of Sri Lanka. Astle will have a strong chance of making his debut in the spin-friendly conditions, given that Jeetan Patel is the only other slow bowler in the squad, with Tarun Nethula having been axed and Daniel Vettori ruled out after suffering an Achilles tendon problem during the World Twenty20.
New Zealand have named a 15-man squad for the two Tests, in Galle and Colombo in the second half of November, and a 15-man group for the one Twenty20 and five ODIs that precede the Tests. Three members of the World T20 squad have not been included for the limited-overs games: the injured Vettori; the fast bowler Doug Bracewell; and the opener Martin Guptill, whose workload is being managed.
The Test squad features the batsman Rob Nicol, who played two Tests against South Africa in March before he was dropped and treated as a limited-overs specialist for the next few months. But the only uncapped player in the group is Astle, the Canterbury legspinner, who has picked up 127 first-class wickets at an average of 34.79 in a career spanning seven seasons.
Astle, 26, was the second-leading spinner in the Plunket Shield last summer, with 31 victims at 38.35, and the national selection manager Kim Littlejohn said his all-round skills gave him the edge ahead of other bowlers.
"He has the ability to contribute in all three facets of the game and deserves his opportunity after a putting in consistent performances over a number of seasons," Littlejohn said of Astle. "Tarun Nethula has missed out on selection this time. We think he would benefit from a return to regular first-class cricket where he can get some overs under his belt and stake his claim for reselection.
Littlejohn also said the wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling was not included in the Test squad as it was considered better for him to be given some game time in the Plunket Shield. "BJ Watling will return to New Zealand after the one-day matches," Littlejohn said. "He has spent a lot of time touring but has had limited opportunities to play and we believe it is best for his development if he's made available for the upcoming Plunket Shield fixtures."
Trent Boult, Andrew Ellis and Tom Latham were all named in the squad for the T20 and ODIs, having not been part of the World T20 group. Littlejohn said the decision to leave Bracewell out had been made to allow him to work on some technical problems ahead of the Test series.
"Doug Bracewell will miss the short-form matches so he can spend some time working on a few minor technical issues with his action," Littlejohn said. "The best approach is to spend time getting things right in domestic four-day cricket ahead of the Test series.
"Ronnie Hira and Adam Milne have been included in the ODI squad having previously being selected in T20 sides. We have been impressed by the development of both players and they offer the side something a bit different.
"It has been a demanding period for the Black Caps, especially for the players who compete in all three forms. As part of the on-going management of player workload we have decided to rest Martin Guptill for the T20 and ODI matches so he can refresh for the upcoming international commitments."
The tour begins with a T20 on October 30 in Pallekele, before five ODIs from November 1 to November 12. The Test series runs from November 17 to November 29.
Test squad Martin Guptill, Rob Nicol, Daniel Flynn, Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor (capt), Kane Williamson, James Franklin, Kruger van Wyk, Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee, Todd Astle, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Jeetan Patel, Chris Martin.
ODI and Twenty20 squad Rob Nicol, Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor (capt), Kane Williamson, BJ Watling, James Franklin, Jacob Oram, Tom Latham, Nathan McCullum, Andrew Ellis, Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Ronnie Hira, Adam Milne.