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New Zealand have drafted all-rounder James Neesham and veteran spinner Jeetan Patel into their squad for the first Test against South Africa, which begins on March 8 in Dunedin.
Neesham has done well in limited overs cricket as of late and his inclusion will put some pressure on fellow all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme, who began his Test career with a bang by taking six wickets against Pakistan on debut.
Since then however, he has only managed to take four wickets in his next six innings.
“Jimmy has impressed so far this summer and we’ve seen improvement in his game,” New Zealand selector Gavin Larsen said. “He gives us another option and is also very familiar with the conditions at University of Otago Oval.”
Patel meanwhile made his Test comeback against India last October after spending almost four years on the sidelines.
The 36-year-old was picked ahead of Ish Sodhi and therefore he and Mitchell Santner will form New Zealand’s spin attack.
“Jeetan brings the ability to spin the ball away from the left-handers, which complements our other spinner in Mitchell Santner nicely,” Larsen said. “He brings a huge amount of experience to the team and gives us the balance of having two front-line spin options.”
Meanwhile, left-arm seamer Neil Wagner is also back in the side after recovering from a finger injury he sustained while playing domestic cricket for Otago in February.
Wagner, who played club cricket last weekend to prove his fitness, has established himself as a force to be reckoned with as he is the Black Caps’ top wicket-taker with 51 wickets at an average of 22.33 since the start of 2016.
“Having Neil back and available is fantastic news for us. Neil’s been our leading wicket-taker in recent times and is a key player for us,” Larsen said. “He’s worked extremely hard to get himself ready for the series and we expect him to be fit and ready to go come the first Test.”
New Zealand Squad for first Test: Kane Williamson (capt), Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Tom Latham, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Jeetan Patel, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling.