New Zealand has named an unchanged squad for the third cricket Test against South Africa, confirming batsman Ross Taylor will not play because of a calf injury while ignoring public calls for change.
South Africa crushed New Zealand by eight wickets inside three days in the second Test match at the Basin Reserve to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
New Zealand crashed out for 171 in its second innings and several batsman are clearly out of form, but selector Gavin Larsen said no changes are necessary because “we think they are the best group of Test cricketers in the country.”
Opening batsman Tom Latham was probably most under pressure after scores of 10, 8 and 6 in the current Test series and 7, 0, 0, 2 and 0 in preceding limited-overs international matches against South Africa.
Allrounders James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme were also expected to come under scrutiny after recent batting failures but Larsen said the selectors had faith in current squad members.
“There’s a lot of work that has to take place between now and the first ball,” Larsen said. “We need more runs and the bowling needs to be tidied up in a general sense.
“We want to see greater fight, which is a hallmark of the good Black Caps teams and we’ve seen a lot of that in the last two or three years. We fought really hard for a day-and-a-half at the Basin, but then dropped our guard.”
New Zealand has retained Neil Broom as Taylor’s replacement at No. 4, after his scores of 0 and 20 in the Wellington Test. It has also resisted the temptation to call in spinner Ish Sodhi for the third Test at Hamilton, which will likely be played on a turning pitch. That leaves the spin duties in the hands of Jeetan Patel and Mitchell Santner.
Trent Boult missed the Wellington Test because of a leg injury and is expected to return in Hamilton, although Larsen said the pace bowler’s fitness was still being monitored “day by day.”
The most alarming issue for New Zealand has been the slump experienced by Latham, who averages 38.64 and has six centuries and 12 half centuries from 31 Tests.
“We have 100 percent faith in Tom,” Larsen said. “We think he’s a classy player.
“He’s in a rut, no doubt about that but his numbers speak for themselves. He’s working hard. Internally I’m sure he’s feeling it, anyone would.”
Taylor, a former Test captain, missed the second Test with a calf muscle injury and team medical staff ruled that he had not recovered sufficiently to return for the third Test.