Leg-spinner Todd Astle has been ruled out of the remainder of the BLACKCAPS tour to the UAE, and will return home to have his injured right knee looked at by a specialist.
The 32-year-old picked up the injury during the recent New Zealand A one-day series and selector Gavin Larsen said he wouldn’t be able to cope with the workload expected in the ODI and Test series against Pakistan.
“Despite a period of rest, Todd’s knee has, unfortunately, not responded as well as we had hoped,” said Larsen.
“The best course of action for Todd is to get home and get it looked at, with an eye to returning in the home summer.
“He worked really hard over the winter and is in some of the best shape of his career at the moment, so for this to happen is a cruel blow.”
Astle’s absence for the Test matches paves the way for Auckland Aces off-spinner Will Somerville, who only returned to New Zealand domestic cricket this season, following three years playing in Sydney.
At 34-years-old, Somerville could become one of New Zealand’s oldest Test debutants, behind the late Herb McGirr who debuted in 1930 at the age of 38.
Somerville has taken an interesting path to the BLACKCAPS.
Born in Wellington, he moved to Australia as a child, before heading to Otago to study accounting. He debuted for Otago in 2005 as a 20-year-old and played three seasons with the southerners before finishing his degree.
Somerville then returned to Sydney, where he was eventually picked for New South Wales, in 2014.
Larsen said Somerville had impressed the selectors since his return and would complement the BLACKCAPS Test bowling stocks.
“We’ve been keeping a close eye on Will and like the look of his all-round game and skill-set.
“He bowls with good control and variation, while his added height means he gets that extra bit of bounce.
“He’s also a handy batsman down the order, as he showed with his half-century in the most recent round of the Ford Trophy.
“The Test squad already has a leg-spinner in Ish Sodhi and a left-arm spinner in Ajaz Patel, so we think Will’s right arm off-spin will balance out the attack nicely.”
Somerville will fly out to the UAE on Saturday to link up with the BLACKCAPS ahead of the first Test in Abu Dhabi on Friday, November 16.