NZ vs SA 2022: Kiwi skipper Williamson ruled out of SA series, Boult to miss first Test

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NZ vs SA 2022: Kiwi skipper Williamson ruled out of SA series, Boult to miss first Test

NZ vs SA 2022: Cam Fletcher and Blair Tickner have earned their maiden Test call-ups, while Colin de Grandhomme and Hamish Rutherford have been recalled as part of an extended BLACKCAPS squad for the first Test against South Africa, starting February 17 at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval.

The larger than normal 15-strong squad will allow the selectors to better cover their options while mitigating the health-risk associated with bringing players into the team environment at short notice, should there be any injuries.

That’s presented opportunities for in-form Canterbury wicket-keeper Fletcher, who will be the back-up gloveman to incumbent Tom Blundell, while Central Stags paceman Tickner will provide cover for the quick bowlers.

Tickner has appeared for the BLACKCAPS in eight T20 internationals since debuting in 2019, while it’s Fletcher’s first call-up to the national side after impressing for his province and for New Zealand A in recent seasons.

Seven years on from his last appearance for the BLACKCAPS, Otago Volts batsman Hamish Rutherford has earned a recall, as has all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme, who missed much of last season with a foot injury.

Against a backdrop of Kane Williamson’s injured elbow (which hasn’t mended in time) and the retirement of Ross Taylor, Rutherford has been included as batting cover in the extended squad, which will again be captained by Tom Latham.

Trent Boult will miss the first Test as he awaits the birth of his third child. While Ajaz Patel is a chance to added for the second Test should conditions suit and provided he overcomes his left-calf injury.

BLACKCAPS Test Squad for First Test:

Tom Latham (c), Tom Blundell, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Cam Fletcher, Kyle Jamieson, Matt Henry, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Rachin Ravindra, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Southee, Blair Tickner, Neil Wagner, Will Young.

Coach Gary Stead acknowledged this was yet another challenging squad to select:

“Injuries and COVID have forced us to be flexible and I’m really excited with the squad picked,” he said.

“I’d like to congratulate Cam and Blair on making the squad and also acknowledge Hamish and Colin for fighting their way back into the Test set-up.

“Cam has been excellent across the three formats for Canterbury over the past couple of seasons. After producing consistent and often match-winning performances for his team.

“This will be a great opportunity for him to come into the BLACKCAPS environment. And soak up the experience as much as he can.”

Stead said faced with the option of selecting another pace bowler or a specialist spinner in the extended squad. Also he’d gone with the former for the first Test, based on the conditions expected at Hagley.

“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.

“It’s pleasing to see Colin back in the Test side, having proved such an influential member. Before his foot injury last season.

“His form of late shows he’s clearly benefited from simply getting back on the park consistently. And it’s great to have his all-round skills and experience to call on.

“It’s a really exciting time for Hamish to be back in the BLACKCAPS after a long time away. And I know he’s absolutely buzzing at the opportunity ahead.

Stead said that, unfortunately, the series had arrived too soon for Williamson, in terms of his elbow injury rehabilitation:

“He was desperate to fit for the series but with the amount of loading required for Test cricket. We had to make the tough call for him to sit it out. And focus on returning for the white ball matches against Netherlands in March.

“Kane loves playing for the BLACKCAPS and especially in 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.

“It’s important to remember this squad is just for the first Test. So we do have flexibility to make changes as required. With the likes of Trent and Ajaz potentially available for the second.

“We’re conscious the second Test pitch may differ from the first. So we’re keen to have the option of adding Ajaz if required. He’s targeting a return for the Stags in the Ford Trophy on February 20 to prove his fitness and availability.”

NZC is currently working through the COVID-19 Health framework for hosting some fans at the matches at Hagley Oval. With details to shared in advance of the first Test on February 17.

The second match of the Test series is scheduled to begin on February 25 at Hagley Oval.

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