Kyle Jamieson suffered a back injury during last year’s tour to England. Photo / AP
The Black Caps will boast one of their biggest weapons when they face their biggest challenge of the summer.
Paceman Kyle Jamieson has been named in a New Zealand squad for the first time since last June, selected to make his return from injury in this month’s blockbuster two-test series against England.
With Brendon McCullum’s tourists coming to town after winning nine of 10 tests since the Kiwi was appointed coach, Jamieson’s inclusion could hardly have come at a better time.
The Black Caps are without a win in six tests and, as coach Gary Stead intimated last month, will be without the services of the uncontracted Trent Boult.
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The veteran’s absence could see his erstwhile teammates battling to avoid becoming the latest victims of England’s newfound aggression when the series begins on February 16 with a day-night test at Bay Oval.
But if he can regain fitness and recapture form, Jamieson with pink ball in hand will offer the home side’s attack an element of potency required to counter Ben Stokes’ high-flying team.
Jamieson has compiled a formidable record in test cricket since making his debut three years ago, snaring 72 scalps in 16 matches at an average of 19.45. His extra pace and bounce has proven particularly threatening in greater opportunities at home, taking 50 wickets at 17.6, and should be especially effective in bowler-friendly conditions under lights.
If, that is, he gets the chance to mark his runup. Jamieson has enjoyed few opportunities to do so since being forced out of last year’s tour to England with a back injury, returning to domestic cricket only last month.
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The 2.03m quick has picked up four wickets in three short-form matches for Auckland, having spent the prior months undergoing a specialised recovery programme, and Stead attributed Jamieson’s recall to his dedication.
“Kyle has reported good progress since his return to professional cricket with Auckland,” the coach said. “He’s a very determined character with a strong desire to play international cricket.
“Since he was forced from the field in Nottingham, he’s been very clear that he wants to get his body right to return.”
The 28-year-old will have one more opportunity to complete that process, set to be part of the New Zealand XI squad to face England in a warm-up match next week at Seddon Park.
Providing there’s no setback, he will then join the Black Caps when they assemble in Tauranga next weekend, with the rest of the 14-man squad featuring few surprises.
Jamieson is the only addition to the 15-strong group that drew a two-test series in Pakistan earlier this summer, with Ajaz Patel and Glenn Phillips both omitted.
Legspinner Ish Sodhi will be hoping to play his first home test since 2018, having finished the Pakistan series as the leading wicket-taker with 13 scalps while also adding valuable runs down the order.
“Ish really impressed us with his approach with bat and ball,” Stead said. “He’s worked very hard on both in recent years and it was great to see that on the international test stage.”
Sodhi does however face a fight to win a place in the XI, with home conditions expected to be typically benign for spinners. If New Zealand do opt to include a tweaker, Michael Bracewell’s superior batting will likely see the offspinner secure a spot, or recently deposed opener Will Young may play as an extra batsman alongside a four-strong pace attack.
The Black Caps are confident Matt Henry will be fit enough to bolster that quartet, with the seamer and wicketkeeper Tom Blundell both tracking well to return from injuries suffered in Pakistan.
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Black Caps test squad to face England:
Tim Southee (c), Michael Bracewell, Tom Blundell (wk), Devon Conway, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ish Sodhi, Blair Tickner, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson, Will Young.
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