Black Caps leg-spinner Ish Sodhi has put pressure on incumbent Test tweaker Mark Craig with a seven-wicket haul in New Zealand's first-class competition.
Sodhi claimed career-best figures of 7-102 inside 28 overs for Northern Districts in their Plunket Shield clash against Otago in Dunedin yesterday.
While Sodhi was spinning his side into a strong position, Craig and his New Zealand teammates were getting thumped at the hands of a rampant Australian outfit in the first Trans-Tasman Test in Wellington.
After getting bowled out for 183 on day one at The Basin Reserve, the Black Caps then fielded for 154 overs as Australia's batsmen cashed in on a benign wicket once the glossy grass covering lost its potency.
Craig, who was brought into the Test XI for injured left-arm orthodox Mitchell Santner, struggled to contain Australia's powerful batting lineup, in particular run machine Adam Voges.
Voges, after an early reprieve, made 239 out of Australia's mammoth 562, and was untroubled by Craig despite the off-spinner ending his record unbeaten streak of 614 runs between Test dismissals.
The Western Australian milked 85 runs from the 84 balls he faced from Craig in the first Test, clocking nine fours and two sixes.
His strike rate of 101 against the spinner was significantly better than any of the other five bowlers Brendon McCullum employed in Wellington, with allrounder Corey Anderson (SR 75) Voges' next favourite opponent.
Sodhi last played Test cricket in November 2014 in Sharjah against Pakistan, partnering Craig and Black Caps legend Daniel Vettori in the innings-and-80-runs victory in which the offie claimed 10 wickets and the man-of-the-match award.
While the prolonged absence from the Test team could hinder his chances of a recall, Sodhi played a pivotal role only eight days ago in the final Chappell-Hadlee one-dayer in Hamilton.
Defending 246, he captured the prize wickets of skipper Steve Smith and dashing allrounder Glenn Maxwell to help deliver the Black Caps a 55-run victory and the series win.
Black Caps coach Mike Hesson has said the makeup of the second Test XI will be determined by the pitch conditions, and if the mentor has his way, both Sodhi and Craig might miss out.
Hesson has called for a pitch with more grass and more assistance for the seam bowlers in Christchurch, and was disappointed with the way the first Test pitch lost its venom by the time lunch was called.
"I would have liked this (Wellington pitch) to have been much greener than it was," Hesson said today in Wellington today.
"It only seamed for two hours and that meant that both sides weren't able to be exposed in those conditions.
"It's a bit different when it seams for two hours, it makes the toss a little bit more important."
The second Test starts on Saturday with Australia aiming to finish the series as the No.1 Test team in the world with a win or a draw, while New Zealand will hope to send retiring captain McCullum out on a winning note.