New Zealand name 15-man squad for first Test against SA
New Zealand on Monday named their 15-man squad for the first Test against South Africa. Wicket-keeper-batter Cam Fletcher and right-arm pacer Blair Tickner have been picked in New Zealand's Test team for the first time. New Zealand Cricket (NZC) has also recalled all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme and left-handed batter Hamish Rutherford for the opening Test of the two-match series, starting February 17.
- New Zealand's regular skipper Kane Williamson is not part of their squad for the first Test and is expected to miss the second game as well, as he recovers from his elbow injury.
- In Williamson's absence, Tom Latham will continue to lead the New Zealand national team.
- Trent Boult will miss the series opener to witness the birth of his third child.
New Zealand squad for the first Test: Tom Latham (captain), Tom Blundell (wicket-keeper), Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Cam Fletcher (wicket-keeper), Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Rachin Ravindra, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Southee, Blair Tickner, Neil Wagner, Will Young
Explaining Fletcher's selection, Gary Stead said, "Cam has been excellent across the three formats for Canterbury over the past couple of seasons, producing consistent and often match-winning performances." "Blair's been a consistent performer in the Plunket Shield over the past few seasons, and we felt his pace, bounce and aggression covered our bases should we lose a pace bowler to injury," he added.
Rutherford has been recalled to NZ's Test team after seven years. He played his last Test for NZ in January 2015 against Sri Lanka in Wellington. Overall, the 32-year-old has represented New Zealand in 16 Tests and scored 755 runs at 26.96. Besides, Grandhomme was dropped from Bangladesh Tests. Before that, he opted out of the India series in 2021 due to bubble fatigue.
"He was desperate to be fit for the series but with the amount of loading required for Test, we had to make the tough call for him to sit it out," Stead said. "Kane loves Test cricket. So it was a particularly hard call. However, the priority has to be trying to get the injury right and having him available long term," he added.
The opening Test match of two-match series between New Zealand and South Africa will be played at the Hagley Oval, Christchurch, starting February 17. The second game is scheduled to take place between February 25 and March 1 at the same venue.