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News

Offspinner Will Somerville earns SCG return with New Zealand call-up

Somerville has appeared in five first-class games at the venue as a New South Wales player

William Somerville celebrates a wicket, Pakistan v New Zealand, 3rd Test, Abu Dhabi, 3rd day, December 5, 2018

William Somerville celebrates a wicket  •  AFP

Offspinner Will Somerville will return to the SCG where he played for New South Wales after being called up to the New Zealand squad for the final Test against Australia as Trent Boult's replacement.
Somerville, the 35-year-old offspinner, has played three Tests for New Zealand, all of them in Asia, and has taken 14 wickets at 25.14 after returning home to New Zealand following a five-year spell in Australian cricket. He played 12 first-class matches for New South Wales including five at the SCG where he took 23 wickets at 20.69.
While it might seem unusual for a spinner to replace a fast bowler in the squad, the decision has been made with an eye on conditions. The SCG pitch has aided spinners in the Sheffield Shield this season and Australia have added uncapped legspinner Mitchell Swepson to their squad with that in mind.
"There's no secret the SCG pitch is one of the more spin-friendly in Australia," New Zealand coach Gary Stead said. "Will offers something different to our two other spinners in the squad with his right-arm offspin and height.
"Will's played a lot at the SCG and understands the ground so well be tapping into his knowledge around the chances of that wicket turning and what role the spinners will play. The reason we brought him over is we have enough pace bowling cover for one game and certainly spin is something at the SCG that has been more of a factor than other grounds in Australia."
Former New South Wales team-mate Nathan Lyon believed that Somerville could pose a challenge for Australia if he plays in Sydney. "He's a lovely guy, he goes up the back of the ball," he said. "I've trained with him a fair bit being part of the NSW squad together for a few years there. He'll be a big challenge for us. He gets a fair amount of bounce, has a great record at the SCG, he loves bowling there. He'll be a different challenge for us and good one for our batters."
Incumbent spinner Mitchell Santner has struggled in the first two Tests taking 1 for 250, but bolsters the lower order with his batting, while legspinner Todd Astle is also in the squad and Stead said playing two spinners could certainly come into the equation.
"It definitely suggests we could play two spinners without a doubt. It's not only Mitch that's had a tough fortnight, there's other players who haven't had the performances and results they wanted. It was three Tests ago that Mitch got a century that helped us win a Test match. Whilst we're talking about slightly different roles that's the thing Kane and I have to get our head around for the next match."
Santner was backed by Lyon to have an impact in conditions that are likely to suit him at the SCG.
"You don't write off good players in international cricket. Mitch probably hasn't had the series that he's wanted to but he's a world-class player," he said. "He's a brilliant fielder, his bowling's improving, he's a great batter as well. You can't just write off someone who has been under the pump for two games. The SCG will suit Mitch and the way he bowls, we're expecting him to definitely play and play a massive role in the next week."
Boult fractured his hand while batting in the Boxing Day Test, and is set for four weeks of rehabilitation back home before he is fit to play again. He had also missed the first Test of the series with a side injury.