Cricket: Andrew Alderson – The Black Caps player whose test future is in doubt

The Black Caps have forged a strong core during their historic run of test match performances, but there is one player whose test future could be hanging by a thread, writes Andrew Alderson.

A waft outside off stump may compromise Mitchell Santner’s test future.

The left-arm spinning all-rounder had combined graft and aggression to build 19 runs, getting New Zealand to 317-5 on the second day of the first test against Pakistan.

Then pace bowler Faheem Ashraf tempted him once too often. Santner played away from his body, slashing through the air off the back foot with the intent of blazing the ball through cover point. Wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan took the catch.

The Black Caps environment is one which places an emphasis on nurturing players through ample opportunities. However, the wealth of talent means those chances are tapering.

Few positions are more contested than the No 7 all-rounder role as New Zealand vies for a possible Test Championship final spot next year.

Of the candidates: Colin de Grandhomme has an ongoing bone stress injury in his right foot, Daryl Mitchell has performed credibly but fleetingly in three appearances and Santner remains a spinning option, conditionally.

His future selection depends on two factors.

Is Kyle Jamieson capable of graduating to all-rounder status?

The evidence is obvious with the ball, given the bounce and carry generated from his 203cm height. His batting also impresses with an average of 49 from five innings but, with a first-class average of 20, will deficiencies be revealed? Alternatively, he may have simply found his test rhythm. Such a presence could also threaten 34-year-old de Grandhomme’s future.

Ajaz Patel, once he returns to full fitness, adds to the conundrum. The 32-year-old left-arm orthodox spinner was overlooked for this test in favour of Santner’s better batting record, as well as a lack of game time after recovering from a calf injury. His Plunket Shield consistency is undisputed, so if the selection policy holds he deserves more of a chance than his eight tests, only three of which have been at home.

After Santner’s maiden test century in Bay Oval’s maiden test last year against England, he struggled in Australia. He averages 25.33 from 30 test innings.

The 28-year-old’s survival in the format now rests on his bowling across the next three days, particularly if he’s used in the final innings.

Last year he mustered the guile to remove three of England’s batsmen, including both openers, to secure victory at the same venue. After that he struggled with one wicket in two tests against Australia, which cost him his place for the Sydney test.

He needs to recover that Mt Maunganui mojo quick.

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