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New Zealand pick Ajaz Patel ahead of Mitchell Santner in final 15 for WTC final

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Published in Cricket
Monday, 14 June 2021 21:48
Ajaz Patel's impressive performance against England at Edgbaston has earned him the spin-bowling position ahead of Mitchell Santner in New Zealand's final 15-player squad for the World Test Championship final.
Daryl Mitchell, who also played in the second Test, is another to miss the cut along with the trio of Doug Bracewell, Jacob Duffy and Rachin Ravindra who did not feature against England. Tom Blundell has been included to provide cover for BJ Watling, who missed Edgbaston due to a back injury, although New Zealand coach Gary Stead said that both he and captain Kane Williamson were on track to be available to face India having trained on Monday.
"It was all pretty tough," Stead said on trimming the final squad. "When you go through them you are looking at all the different positions and it was really about having cover for all the scenarios we think we might face.
"You take someone like Daryl Mitchell who has done very well in all his opportunities and Mitchell Santner who has been a longer-standing servant of the team, they are a couple of them that stand out as the toughest ones."
Barring any further injury scares before the final on Friday, the last decision for New Zealand will be around the balance of their attack which could see Kyle Jamieson batting at No. 7 if they go with five specialist bowlers instead of allrounder Colin de Grandhomme, who was rested at Edgbaston.
"I've got a lot of faith in Kyle," Stead said. "He hasn't yet done it [bat at No. 7] at Test level but he's developing nicely. In time it's ultimately where we see Kyle could hopefully end up or certainly push his boundaries to get up at that level because that would then allow us to look at the team slightly differently in terms of the dynamic of the group.
"There's always a bit of a puzzle whether you go in with what you feel is slightly batting heavy or bowling heavy. That's the advantage of having an allrounder in that you can balance up the group a little bit more and that's what we are aiming to do when we select our teams."
Patel pushed himself ahead of Santner in the spin pecking order by taking match figures of 4 for 59 from 23 overs in New Zealand's eight-wicket victory. Santner went wicketless at Lord's in his 23 overs, and made a duck, although bowled without luck and had to contend with a cut spinning figure. With surfaces in England offering more for the spinners than they often do back home, Stead wanted the most attacking option available.
"Ajaz bowled beautifully," he said. "Thought in both innings he did the role we wanted him to do and picked up a couple of key wickets. It's worth noting that the conditions we face here in England are slightly different from a spin perspective as to what we get in New Zealand and I think the wickets here do deteriorate a little bit faster as well.
"The role of the spinner is probably a little more of an attacking one than it is in New Zealand at times. We felt we needed to have who we thought was our best spinner in terms of the guy who can take wickets for us and that's why Ajaz got that nod.
"It's a hard message to give at times. Often those guys have done nothing wrong and it's around the balance we want in the team but Mitch [Santner] took it as I expected he would. He knows he's a key component of our white-ball teams and there's certainly a lot of white-ball cricket coming up that he can go home and prepare for as well."
Stead added that the final decision on the balance of the side was perhaps not quite as simple as Patel verses de Grandhomme and would likely be made the day before the final once they have assessed the pitch and with an eye on a weather forecast that suggests rain will be a factor.
"There's a whole lot of different scenarios it could be depending on what that [the pitch] looks like, what the weather's like and they could both yet play as well."
However, it would be a surprise to see any of Jamieson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner not making the final XI which means that Matt Henry, who was Player of the Match at Edgbaston, is set to be on the bench.
"I think in many other teams Matt Henry would have played a lot more cricket but it's also the strength that we have and it's great that when he got the opportunity that he did what he did," Stead said.
New Zealand WTC final squad Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Will Young, BJ Watling, Tom Blundell, Colin de Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Ajaz Patel, Trent Boult, Matt Henry

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

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