WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand left-arm spinner Ajaz Patel’s form against Pakistan in the UAE has earned him the chance to impress in local conditions after selectors on Monday named him as the only slow bowler in the squad for two tests against Sri Lanka.
The 30-year-old produced a man-of-the-match performance on debut in their four-run win over Pakistan in the first test in Abu Dhabi last month. He also finished with 13 wickets in the series, the most by a New Zealand bowler.
Despite his impressive performances, he had been in competition with offspinner Will Somerville and legspinner Ish Sodhi for the one slow bowling position in the squad with New Zealand returning to play on pitches less conducive to turn.
Coach Gary Stead had said on the team’s return home on Sunday that he would need to drop two of the spinners as they resorted to a three-pronged pace attack for the first test starting on Saturday at the Basin Reserve.
“Ajaz certainly grabbed his opportunity on the UAE tour and he’s a proven performer in New Zealand conditions,” team selector Gavin Larsen said.
“There’s a real swell of support for the test team following their efforts in the UAE, so were hoping to transition that momentum into a big home summer.”
Somerville, who took seven wickets on debut in the third test victory in Abu Dhabi, and Sodhi were released to play first-class cricket.
“Will Somerville was an obvious stand-out on debut in the Abu Dhabi decider and its great to know we’ve got quality spin bowlers who can create competition for places,” Larsen added.
Uncapped batsman Will Young has also been added to the squad as batting cover after strong performances in domestic cricket and for the New Zealand ‘A’ side.
He has scored 664 runs, including three centuries and a half century, at an average of 60.36 in 12 innings across all forms of cricket for the ‘A’ side in the last six weeks, including a century in their one-day clash with India ‘A’ on Sunday.
“I’m over the moon to be part of the test squad but nothing changes,” Young said. “I’m just keep enjoying my cricket and hopefully the chance will come.
“I’ve had a few ‘A’ chances before and it didn’t go to plan … but I have managed to put together some performances and the selectors have taken notice of that.”
Squad: Kane Williamson (captain), Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Jeet Raval, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling,
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford)