NZ v PAK 2020-21: New Zealand pick Mitchell Santner over Ajaz Patel for Pakistan Tests 

Santner has been given the nod as Patel has just gone through rehabilitation for an injury.

Mitchell Santner | GettyNew Zealand have chosen Mitchell Santner over Ajaz Patel in the spin department for the two-match Test series versus Pakistan, starting December 26 in Mount Maunganui. 

With the hosts looking to make their last push towards reaching the next year's World Test Championship final, coach Gary Stead informed it was Santner's all-round skills plus the fact Patel hasn't had enough game time under his belt that tilted the think-tank in former's favour. 

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Santner, part of Black Caps' limited-overs squads, hasn't played a Test himself since the last winter's tour of Australia, but Patel has just gone through rehabilitation for a calf injury and the team management doesn't want to take any risk with him. 

After missing the first Test versus West Indies in Hamilton, for which Santner had been brought in as cover, Patel did join the squad for the following Test in Wellington, but hadn't fully recovered to make the cut and has also been overlooked for the first Pakistan Test now. 

"It's really unfortunate for Ajaz, who has overcome his calf-injury, but the all-round ability of Mitchell Santner is our preferred option for this series," Stead said in a statement. "The fact Ajaz hasn't been able to have any game-time in the lead-up was also a concern for the selectors."

New Zealand are third in a rejigged Test championship points table - where standings are now accorded on the basis of a percent-based system - behind 2nd placed India and top-positioned Australia. There is a good chance the Kiwis will leapfrog the Indians if they can whitewash Pakistan 2-0 and cement their place for the summit-clash in June 2021. 

"Our rise through the Test rankings is a great achievement, but we know the challenge is now to back that up against a quality Pakistan side. It's really exciting to see so much interest in the Test team and I know both games at Bay Oval and Hagley Oval will be special occasions for all involved," Stead said. 

Captain Kane Williamson is back after missing the second Test versus the West Indies due to the birth of his first child. With the return of Williamson, Devon Conway had to be left out as the selectors decided to retain Will Young in the squad. 

The home team, however, will continue to miss the services of their first-choice pace all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme, who is nursing a stress-reaction to his right ankle. He had also missed the West Indies Tests, with Daryl Mitchell taking his place. 

This will be a historic instance of the Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui hosting a Boxing Day Test for the first time, which has really been a cause of excitement for veteran quick and local boy Neil Wagner. 

"It doesn't get much bigger than a Boxing Day Test on your home ground," Wagner said. "The community has really got behind Bay Oval and to see a bumper crowd there on Boxing Day will be pretty special as a local player."

"The Test team have played some really good cricket of late and to have an opportunity to push for a World Test Championship Final is truly exciting. 

"Pakistan are a dangerous side with class players throughout their line-up - so we know we'll have to be at the top of our game," he added. 

Christchurch will host the second and final Test on January 3. 

New Zealand Squad: Kane Williamson (c), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling (wk), Will Young

(Inputs from Cricbuzz)


By Kashish Chadha - 22 Dec, 2020

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