Newcomer Hamish Rutherford and veteran Peter Fulton are New Zealand's latest opening partnership after being confirmed in the test squad to face England today.
Coach Mike Hesson named a squad of 12, with rookie Tom Latham also included as an opening contender. But Rutherford and Fulton were the "most likely" opening pair, Hesson said.
Rutherford and Latham will go head to head for the New Zealand XI against England in Queenstown, starting on Wednesday. Fulton is the first choice but there remains a slight question mark over him as he tries to fully shake off the knee injury that's troubled him throughout the season.
Another talking point of the squad named in Auckland today was the axing of all-rounder James Franklin and spinner Jeetan Patel, and the promotion of left-armer Bruce Martin who was Patel's understudy in South Africa.
And Hesson has left one spot open for a fast bowler to be added to the squad next week, seemingly pitting Mark Gillespie and Neil Wagner against each other in the four-day warm-up game in Queenstown.
Incumbent test opener Martin Guptill's thumb injury which requires immediate surgery saw Rutherford summoned after playing three T20s and two ODIs against England.
Following in the footsteps of father Ken, the Rutherfords will become the ninth father-son duo to play test cricket for New Zealand.
Rutherford, 23, headed off a few contenders including occasional test openers Daniel Flynn and Aaron Redmond. The former has had a few chances while the latter scored nearly 1000 Plunket Shield runs at 58.50 but still has questionmarks over his temperament.
Rutherford averaged 40.6 in Plunket Shield this summer and his last three bats were worth 90 against Wellington, and 162 and 28 against Northern Districts. He scored 82 runs from five limited overs innings against England, his highest score 40 in the Hamilton Twenty20 victory.
Fulton, 34, was poised to return to the test team in South Africa before suffering a knee injury. An average of 20.93 from 10 tests, the most recent against Pakistan in December 2009, isn't world-beating. But he's been one of the Plunket Shield's leading runscorers and averaged over 55 after a timely 98 against Auckland last week.
Latham has kept wicket for Canterbury and batted down the order this season but Hesson said he's opened for New Zealand A and was seen as someone who had the necessary qualities for the test job, if required.
The rest of the batting picked itself, with Brendon McCullum set to drop to No 5, followed by Dean Brownlie at six and gloveman BJ Watling at seven.
Martin is on track for a long-awaited test debut at 32. He was unlucky not to play in South Africa and is regarded by domestic batsmen as the best spinner in the country. Patel paid the price for a disappointing series in South Africa, while Martin offers more with the bat, too.
The pace trio of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell are reunited after Southee's layoff for thumb surgery.
New Zealand will also consider playing four pacemen in Dunedin if conditions look favourable. Gillespie's efforts against South Africa a year ago were compelling and he gets a chance to get amongst England's batsmen in Queenstown.
Others not considered due to injury were Daniel Vettori (Achilles), Chris Martin (hamstring) and Mitchell McClenaghan (side). Hesson also confirmed Wellington gloveman Luke Ronchi had aggravated a hamstring strain and would miss the Queenstown game where he was set to captain the New Zealand XI.
Black Caps test squad: Brendon McCullum (c), Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Dean Brownlie, Peter Fulton, Tom Latham, Bruce Martin, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.
- © Fairfax NZ News