Williamson, Southee set to play their 100th Tests as Mitchell, Kuggeleijn return for Australia series

February 18, 2024
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Captain Tim Southee and premier batter Kane Williamson are set to play their 100th Test matches during the upcoming Test series against Australia starting at Wellington later this month.

Auckland, Feb 18 (IANS) Captain Tim Southee and premier batter Kane Williamson are set to play their 100th Test matches during the upcoming Test series against Australia starting at Wellington later this month.

Southee and Williamson are on track to bring up their 100th Tests in the second Test against Australia at Hagley Oval, starting on March 8. The duo will join an exclusive club of New Zealand Test cricketers playing 100 Tests which features Stephen Fleming, Daniel Vettori, Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor.

Southee and Williamson enter the series as New Zealand’s second all-time leading Test wicket-taker and all-time leading Test run scorer, respectively. Having progressed through the Northern Districts pathway and represented New Zealand together at Under 19 level, the pair also played their 50th Tests together, in 2016 against Zimbabwe.

Southee will follow Ross Taylor, Virat Kohli and David Warner as just the fourth player in history to have played 100 matches in each individual format of men’s international cricket.

“To play 100 Tests for your country is an incredible achievement. It takes a huge amount of longevity and skill, and to keep improving and to manage the demands of Test cricket over a long period of time is a testament to their character.

“Tim and Kane continue to be brilliant servants of the game in New Zealand and influential figures in the BLACKCAPS environment. Their achievements at Test level speak for themselves and they are undoubtedly two of the greatest players to have ever worn the New Zealand Test shirt,” said head coach Gary Stead in a statement.

Daryl Mitchell returns to the squad for the two-Test series after missing the second Test against South Africa and the upcoming T20Is against Australia to heal from a foot injury, while Scott Kuggeleijn is included in place of Kyle Jamieson, who is ruled out of the rest of the home summer due to a back stress fracture.

“Everything is tracking well with Daryl. The decision to give him a period of rehabilitation was necessary and will allow him to be at his best for what is an important series for the team.“

“He’s a key member of the group and has proven, with his performances over the past 12 to 18 months, how much value he adds to the Test team. Daryl will keep focusing on his rehabilitation over the next week and will be fit and ready for the first Test in Wellington,” said New Zealand selector Sam Wells.

Kuggeleijn, who made his Test debut against England at Bay Oval last summer, is selected off the back of strong performances for New Zealand A against Australia A last year, including match figures of 9-113 and an unbeaten 101 to lead the team to victory in the first four-day game.

The fast-bowler has continued his form in the Plunket Shield, leading the wicket-taking charts with 22 wickets at an average of 16 for the Northern Districts from the first four rounds of the competition.

“Scott performed admirably with both bat and ball on the recent New Zealand A tour to Australia. He will bring genuine pace with the ball and adds extra depth with the bat which is always valuable at Test level,” added Wells.

The remainder of New Zealand’s Test squad is the same as the side which claimed a first-ever series victory over South Africa last week. Will O’Rourke retains his place after a memorable Test debut against South Africa, where he claimed the best ever match figures by a debutant for New Zealand in Tests (9-93), including his maiden Test five-wicket haul (5-34).

“Will was outstanding on Test debut and showed he has all the skills to succeed at Test level. He’s still a young man who’s learning his trade and the experience of bowling against a strong Australian batting line-up will only help his development,” added Wells.

Mitchell Santner continues as the specialist spin-bowling option, while recent Test double-century maker Rachin Ravindra and allrounder Glenn Phillips add more options. Trent Boult, who will feature in the T20I series against Australia, was not considered for Test selection due to minimal recent red-ball cricket action.

Left-arm fast-bowler Boult’s last Test for New Zealand in June 2022 against England in Leeds. Off-spin all-rounder Michael Bracewell was not considered for selection as he continues to recover from a finger injury.

The series is the first time New Zealand will face current World Test Championship holders Australia in Tests at home since 2016 , where the visitors took a 2-0 series victory with wins in Wellington and Christchurch. The New Zealand squad assembles in Wellington on February 26 ahead of the first Test at a sell-out Basin Reserve starting on February 29.

“Test series against Australia always come with plenty of excitement, even more so in front of home kiwi fans. Australia have named another strong squad with a host of world-class players who have plenty of experience at Test level.

“They’ve shown with their success in the last World Test Championship cycle that they’re a quality side, so this series will give us a good indication of where we’re at as a Test team,” concluded Wells.

New Zealand Test squad: Tim Southee (captain), Tom Blundell, Matt Henry, Scott Kuggeleijn, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Will O’Rourke, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson and Will Young

–IANS/nr/bc

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