Most of the squad should be pretty straight forward with a few spots slightly ajar depending on performances in the “A” game in, inevitably, Hamilton.
The top 7 will be the same as what it’s been for the last few years with Blundell taking the place of Raval. His batting at 3 in the ODIs when Williamson was injured confirmed his new status as the roving replacement for batsmen out of form or injured.
Then we get to the bowlers. The Old Firm of Southee, Boult and Wagner are likely to front. When New Zealand played India in the 302 test in 2014 that was the trio; backed up by Corey Anderson and Neesham on debut.
There are concerns about Boult though; who has played two tests since mid-November; being invalided out of them both. It would be optimistic to think he will return as peak Boult at The Basin; maybe in the second test.
So then there is that last spot left. The spin bowler. Because you need one of them; even when you’re up against the side who plays actual spin bowling the best.
Over the last year New Zealand has used five bowlers that loosely fit into this category, but there are not many standing.
The announcement from Todd Astle that he is standing down from red ball cricket is a really strange one, and its timing is even stranger.
Astle played five tests over a period of nine years. He played under three different captains, although not under McCullum. He is a great pub trivia topic.
But after that Sydney test, and he should have played in Melbourne, you would have thought he was at the top of the queue. And because of his batting you’d have thought he’d have fitted in just fine with the Gav-cautious approach.
Somerville is injured, so that leaves Santner, Sodhi and Patel.
Santner’s confidence must be shot. He was found out badly in Australia, and if you were to pick him for his batting then you might as well pick a specialist batsman.
Sodhi has been involved in the New Zealand A red ball matches but has not done anything to indicate he should play. In 2014 New Zealand played 5 seamers at the Basin because Sodhi was hit out of the attack in the first test and it’s hard to see anything that has improved since then.
Then there is Ajaz Patel who increasingly looks like an Asian continent specialist. He hasn’t featured in any selections this year, and those wicketless tests at home against Sri Lanka seem to be counting against him.
So none of those options particularly appeal, and a return to the 2014 model seems likely. An aggressive approach would be to pick Ferguson or Jamieson. But history would show that they will factor batting into the selection. That would indicate a return for Neesham.
But they didn’t pick him when de Grandhomme was injured earlier in the season. Don’t be surprised if Daryl Mitchell gets a look in.