Neil Broom the 'obvious selection' to take on South Africa's pace attack for injured Ross Taylor as test debut looms
Experience, 18 first-class centuries and ability against pace bowling vaulted Neil Broom to the head of the queue for a test debut at age 33 against South Africa in Wellington.
As both teams squelched away from Dunedin's University Oval on Sunday in a rain-soaked first test draw, New Zealand's selectors summoned Broom to replace Ross Taylor whose "low grade" right calf tear will rule him out of the second test at least.
It could mean up to three changes to the New Zealand XI at the Basin Reserve, with pace spearhead Trent Boult under a cloud with a left hip/pelvis injury. He hasn't yet been ruled out of Thursday's test, and will be monitored, but his and Taylor's absence would be major setbacks for New Zealand after they competed so strongly in Dunedin.
Paceman Matt Henry was added the squad, too, while Tim Southee will almost certainly return and either Henry or allrounder Colin de Grandhomme could replace a spinner, probably Mitchell Santner, on a bouncier pitch that may be fresh after being covered from the prolonged Wellington downpours.
Broom looks the right choice for a daunting assignment, having played 136 first-class games over 14 seasons but no tests. He averages 39 over that career, including 18 tons, and this season for Otago scored 424 Plunket Shield runs at 53.
"We've got quite an inexperienced batting lineup so we were keen to have somebody who had plenty of playing experience, and somebody who played pace well," coach and chief selector Mike Hesson said.
"Neil's had the advantage of seeing a bit of South Africa earlier in the month. In terms of that middle order role he was an obvious selection for us."
Broom didn't see too much of the South Africans during the ODI series, scoring 2, 2, and 0 before was dropped along with Tom Latham. Broom's 73 against Australia in the Auckland ODI in January remains his international headline knock of the summer, after scoring 109 not out and 97 against Bangladesh.
Hesson said Dean Brownlie wasn't considered due to injury, having been Taylor's designated replacement against Pakistan last November. Colin Munro wasn't required, either, after he returned from his ODI axing to blast 146 and 142 for Auckland against Central Districts and boost his first-class average to 51.85.
"We were after an experienced middle order player who provides some solidity. It's fair to say Colin is a little bit different type of player to that. He's very destructive on his day but we're after that player who's able to control an innings through the middle and show that experience," Hesson said.
South Africa's captain Faf du Plessis said of Broom: "I haven't played against him with the red ball. Seen a bit of him in the one-dayers. We were quite successful in getting rid of him so hopefully that will continue. It's the experience they are going to miss with Ross. They can't replace that straight away."
The full extent or nature of Boult's injury remains unclear.
It was described by Hesson as in his left hip or pelvis region and may have been caused by running on a soft outfield, which has affected bowlers at various grounds. Having picked two spinners and dropped Southee, Hesson denied it was because Boult was over-bowled, after 47.4 overs for impressive match figures of 5-98.
"You expect your seamers to bowl about 50 [overs in a test match]. Our third seamer [Jimmy Neesham] only bowled 12 or 13. We had plenty of overs up our sleeve so I wouldn't say it's a workload issue, the softish outfield can cause issues with that.
"He's certainly better today. Yesterday afternoon he was in a bit of discomfort so we decided it wasn't worth the risk of him trying to bowl in that state. We'll keep monitoring him."
New Zealand squad for second test in Wellington: Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Neil Broom, Henry Nicholls, Jimmy Neesham, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Jeetan Patel, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Matt Henry.