The mostly predictable New Zealand squad to play England in the Auckland day-night test was selected today, and most of the chatter has been about the spin bowling replacement for the knackered, yet in-form, Mitchell Santner.
Santner would have been really handy for this test, mainly because he is in such good form with the bat.
He would also have been able to send down a decent number of overs in a restraining mode, while everyone waited for the next hugely lacquered new ball to be taken; ideally at dusk.
Yet all the debate today has been comparing the merits of Sodhi against Astle. The majority of opinion seems to be that the former should have been picked because he would have the ability to run through a batting line-up on the fifth day.
This is statistically incorrect (check out their first class averages) but it also assumes the match will go to a fifth day on a wearing pitch. Neither of these scenarios is likely.
While admitting the sample size is small, no day-night test has been decided on a sun-baked wearing pitch. They have been decided by that swinging ball, especially when it is new, and at a certain time of the day. And the ball tends to swing in Auckland. Weather permitting, this match should be over before the lights are turned on on Sunday.
The normally very vocal George Worker fan club has been strangely quiet today.
Spin bowlers do not play a huge part in tests in New Zealand, and this has been reinforced by checking out Todd Astle’s last test. He bowled four overs.
So the main job of a tweaker should be to offer some variety while keeping it tight. If they can be a specialist batsman into the bargain adds so much to the balance of the side. Playing a top 6 like that would also give you the option of playing four specialist seamers.
There is the downside that you would be picking a specialist opener to bat at number 6, but there is a bit to be said of the pretty successful Australian philosophy of starting a player’s career at a lower rung on the batting order than where he bats in First Class cricket.
At least Hesson and Larsen are being consistent. A feature of this tenure has been an extraordinary sense of loyalty to the incumbents. Another feature of this selection is that BJ Watling has been chosen as the keeper because he is perceived to be The Incumbent. He hasn’t played a test for 51 weeks, although there are a few factors in that.
He is only now coming back from a hamstring injury, but picking George Worker would have been a gamble, and broken a policy, but you do wonder whether a bit of lateral thinking may have been in order.