NZ vs SA: New Zealand Cricket (NZC) announced a 15-member Black Caps squad for their upcoming first Test against South Africa, starting February 17 at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval.
In-form Canterbury wicket-keeper Cam Fletcher and Central Stags pacer Blair Tickner have earned their maiden call-ups in the national setup. Tickner has represented the side in eight T20 internationals since his debut in 2019, while Fletcher earned his call-up after a fantastic stint for his province and for New Zealand A in recent seasons. On the other hand,
Moreover, Colin de Grandhomme and Hamish Rutherford have been recalled to the Tom Latham-led squad. Hamish Rutherford will be making his comeback after seven years from being out of the national setup. While Grandhomme will be returning to action after recuperating from his foot injury.
In addition, Kane Williamson will be missing out on the entire series as he has been sidelined due to an injured elbow and Trent Boult will miss out on the first Test due to personal issues.
Tickner has been a steady performer on the domestic circuit, finishing among the top five wicket-takers in the Plunket Shield for the past two seasons. Rutherford returns to the side for the first time since January 2015, when he last played Test cricket. The 32-year-old, who has amassed a large number of runs in domestic cricket, finished second among hitters in the last Plunket Shield with 588 runs in eight games, and he has already scored over 370 runs in four games this season. Fletcher scored 473 runs at an average of 78.83 the previous season while averaging 86 in the current Plunket season with 344 runs.
“Injuries and COVID have forced us to be flexible and I’m really excited with the squad picked,” said head coach Gary Stead. “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, 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.”
“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 on the Test side, has 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-around 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,” added Stead.
NZ vs SA New Zealand squad for the first Test: Tom Latham (c), Tom Blundell (wk), Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Cam Fletcher (wk), Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Rachin Ravindra, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Southee, Blair Tickner, Neil Wagner, Will Young