On Thursday we welcome Test cricket back into the mix like an old homie who ventured off into the wilderness to find themselves as the Blackcaps start their Test series vs Bangladesh. The last time we saw the Blackcaps in whites, was against Sri Lanka and while that series threatened to offer a splash of funk to the Blackcaps dominance in Aotearoa, the kiwis eventually settled into their groove.
Despite what others may suggest, everything is fairly splendid with the Blackcaps Test group. As long as Jeet Raval is facing 50+ deliveries more often than not, I'm not overly concerned with the materialistic idea of centuries. As long as Neil Wagner is chiming in with wickets when required, while ticking his boxes in supporting the swingers via hostile spells and pressure-building, consistent big hauls of wickets ain't really all that important.
Those are the most contentious aspects of the Blackcaps Test unit, outside of the obvious spinning conundrum and the fact that people want to get that deep into the nitty-gritty is weird. The day will come when the Blackcaps actually run through a gauntlet of tough Test series and players are put under far more interesting microscopes than the cheap, 2-bucker microscopes we've got now. At the moment though, we A) lack an abundance of Test cricket and B) don't see the Blackcaps Test team in super niggly, competitive Test series'.
That means, we just enjoy what we have and fire up when the selectors throw a curveball ... which was completely unnecessary. Everything was fine, so for Todd Astle to come in for Ajaz Patel definitely enhanced the weird vibes. I've harped on about that in multiple thingys since then and now is the time to sit back, dwell in acceptance and see what happens.
Given that this first Test is in Hamilton, Astle will probably play as Seddon Park always takes a bit of turn. This should result in Astle turning the ball and his challenge will be being effective against Bangladesh batsmen who will welcome the favourable conditions - as favourable as they'll likely get in this series. Should Bangladesh be able to negotiate the swing of Tim Southee and Trent Boult, bat their way to a flatter deck against Astle and Colin de Grandhomme, it will present and interesting challenge for Astle and the wider Blackcaps bowling group.
That's if they can deal with Southee and Boult, on their home deck. That's if Bangladesh can survive against Neil Wagner who bullies touring Asian batsment to the same extent as Southee and Boult, just in a very different manner. All of which means the chances of Astle having enough overs to prove himself, could be rather slim. Not to mention the low key shenanigans of Kane Williamson in the recent ODI series' where Williamson was either reluctant to use Astle, or chucked him into no-win situations.
While we'll all be eager to see how Astle bowls, the kiwi seamers could limit that window and then there is this intriguing aspect of Williamson's captaincy brewing. That translates to me having no idea what role Astle will play in this first Test and the prospect of Astle not even playing in this Test, is also real. Bonkers given the situation, but a possibility.
Raval has played two games since the Sri Lanka Test series, a tour game vs Bangladesh (52 runs) and then the recent Plunket Shield (4) outing. Wagner played five Super Smash games and took 3 wickets in 5inns, while BJ Watling's only recent appearance came in the return of Plunket Shield cricket (77).
In roughly two months, Raval, Wagner and Watling have barely been sighted playing cricket. This could be the biggest issue for kiwi cricket at the moment, outside of an under-performing White Ferns team lacking the resources to be competitive and the lack of Test cricket could find its way into influencing how these lads perform. As I alluded to earlier, there's zero reason for concern with Raval and Wagner, let alone Watling, but it's just an interesting idea; the best cricketers in Aotearoa barely play any cricket.
This series feels like the perfect time to hand Will Young his debut, as well as giving Matt Henry a decent stint at the Test bowling crease. The lack of Test cricket makes it difficult to integrate and develop the fringe Test cricketers, but hopefully we get some level of good funk to dive into. Otherwise it could be a typical Test series in Aotearoa in which the illusion of the Blackcaps being a dominant force continues to fester.
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Peace and love 27.