Jeetan Patel recalled to test squad for three-match series against South Africa
There was good news for off-spinner Jeetan Patel and all-rounder Jimmy Neesham and the confirmation of bad news for Martin Guptill fans when the New Zealand cricket selectors named their test squad to face South Africa on Friday.
Re-called for the three-match series set to start in Dunedin on Wednesday, Patel and Neesham did not feature in the home series' against Pakistan and Bangladesh and both last played test cricket in the final match of the series in India last year.
They replace batsman Dean Brownlie and seamer Matt Henry in the 13-man squad, that pair set to play in the next round of Plunket Shield domestic four-day matches starting next week.
In what could be viewed as giving the hosts the option to turn the ball away more from a South African top seven featuring a trio of classy left-handers in Dean Elgar, JP Duminy and Quinton de Kock, veteran right-arm tweaker Patel joins Mitchell Santner to give New Zealand two specialist spin options.
Selector Gavin Larsen said variety was the primary reason for his inclusion.
"Jeetan brings the ability to spin the ball away from the left-handers, which complements our other spinner in Mitchell Santner nicely.
"He brings a huge amount of experience to the team and gives us the balance of having two front-line spin options."
Otago left-handed batsman and right-arm seamer Neesham made 71 in the first innings of the final test in India and comes back into the squad after what Larsen called an impressive summer so far.
Left-arm seamer Neil Wagner was also cleared fit to play and named in the squad after breaking his left ring finger fielding a ball of his own bowling playing for Otago in early February.
"Having Neil back and available is fantastic news for us," Larsen said. "Neil's been our leading wicket-taker in recent times and is a key player for us.
"He's worked extremely hard to get himself ready for the series and we expect him to be fit and ready to go come the first test."
As signalled by New Zealand coach Mike Hesson on Thursday, there was still no room for Guptill, despite a brilliant unbeaten 180 in Hamilton on Wednesday night to set-up a fifth and deciding match in the ODI series at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.
The selectors have instead opted to send Guptill back to play domestic four-day cricket for Auckland, where he would make the shift to the middle-order.
Guptill was seen to be in contention for the No 5 spot in the order but that berth is expected to be retained by Canterbury's Henry Nicholls, who made 98 and 53 in the Bangladesh series.
Bearing in mind Guptill's test average of 29.38, South African test captain Faf du Plessis said there was two ways to look at the New Zealand selectors decision.
"His stats are pretty self-explanatory. He is a very good white ball player but I'm sure he would be the first to say his numbers don't stack up in red ball cricket.
"Certainly from a potential point of view he is an unbelievably dangerous batter and looks in good touch.
"For me, whatever the format you can carry that into any other format. I assume he'll be pretty disappointed because he feels in good touch but there is two ways to look at it."
Since their 3-0 thumping in India in September and October last year, the New Zealand test team returned home and recorded 2-0 sweeps of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The South African test team also heads into the series in winning form, having recorded a superb 2-1 triumph in Australia in November last year and a 3-0 whitewash at home against Sri Lanka during December and January.
The Proteas are ranked third in test cricket, two places above New Zealand.
New Zealand test squad: Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Jeetan Patel, Tom Latham, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling
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