Boult's return creates Black Caps' selection logjam
New Zealand boosted by star quick's presence as they weigh up best XI leading into second Test against England
7 June 2021, 05:23 PM AEST
The surprise return of swing star Trent Boult for the second Test against England this week could leave New Zealand selectors with a conundrum ahead of the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) Final later this month.
Boult had been expected to miss the two-match series against England due to quarantine requirements upon his arrival in the UK, but relaxed protocols announced this week have allowed the left-armer to return to training earlier than expected.
Should Boult be cleared to play at Edgbaston, starting on Thursday, the Black Caps may look to rest one of Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson ahead of the WTC Final against India, which starts in Southampton on June 18.
Alternatively, they could opt to pick all four frontline seamers – who are likely to play in the WTC Final – which would leave either Colin de Grandhomme or Mitchell Santner on the outer.
"There's a chance (Boult will play at Edgbaston), there are a few things that have changed," NZ coach Gary Stead after the first Test against England at Lord's finished in a draw.
"The British Government has relaxed their quarantine stipulations so Trent is out of isolation three or four days earlier than expected.
"The original plan we had in place with all the information we had at the time was we weren't going to play him in the second Test, but coming out of that isolation probably three days earlier than what we originally anticipated does put a slightly different spin on it.
"So we'll weigh up the pros and cons and work out with Trent what we think is the best course forward to make sure he is fit and raring to go for that (WTC) Final."
The return of Boult would be a welcome boost as the Black Caps chase their first series win in England since 1999, but selectors will be wary of weakening their batting line-up too much to accommodate their star seamers.
If Santner was to be retained alongside the four frontline fast bowlers, it would require him to move up the order to No.7 having batted at No.8 in five of his past six Tests.
De Grandhomme (Test average of 36.18) offers a more as a batsman than Santner (24.70) and has grown accustomed to the No.7 spot behind wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling.
But Stead indicated the variety Santner's left-arm spin adds to the bowling attack could prove crucial both at Edgbaston and in the WTC Final, adding the tweaker was hampered by an existing finger injury during the Lord's Test.
"Mitch got the scab knocked off where it's been heeling … (that's) another one we'll talk through tomorrow," Stead said.
"I thought Mitch bowled really well, that first innings in particular, and could easily have picked up two or three wickets, cleaned them up 50-60 runs earlier. If that had been the case the game might have looked different.
"It's hard when you look at a five-day game to not consider a spinner. At various times it's always good to have those different options.
"The pitches here provide us a with a slightly different outlook to what they do in New Zealand.”
Even if Boult does return this week, selectors may stick with both de Grandhomme and Santner at Edgbaston and keep one of their star seamers on ice ahead of the historic first WTC Final.
Southee took seven wickets from 42.1 overs at Lord's while Jamieson and Wagner (41 and 40 overs respectively) also have a short turnaround between Tests this week.
"We have to manage all the bowlers," Stead said. "(I) haven't had that conversation yet with Tim. He bowled really well, he's a workhorse and loves the hard work.
"Again, (it's) a conversation we'll have with our support staff in the morning to see where everyone is at and scrub up before we make that firm decision."