New Zealand news – Ben Sears called up for Will O’Rourke, Devon Conway to miss start of IPL

Ben Sears is in line to make his Test debut against Australia in the second Test in Christchurch after Will O’Rourke was ruled out due to a hamstring injury, while Devon Conway is set to miss at least the first half of the IPL after undergoing surgery on his fractured left thumb.
New Zealand coach Gary Stead confirmed on Monday that O’Rourke’s hamstring is set to sideline him for two to four weeks with Sears being the like-for-like replacement. Stead said there was no consideration given to recalling the retired Neil Wagner after the team gave him a send-off in Wellington following the 172-run loss to Australia.

Meanwhile, Stead also confirmed Conway had a small fracture in the joint of his left thumb, which he injured during the second T20I against Australia, and would undergo surgery that would rule him out for eight weeks. That would mean he is unlikely to be available for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL until May but he should be fit for the T20 World Cup in June.

Stead said it was disappointing to lose O’Rourke having been impressed by his performance in Wellington before he limped off with the hamstring injury in the second innings.

“He hasn’t had sort of hamstring injury in the past,” Stead said. “Disappointing for Will and disappointing for us because I thought he bowled fantastically well and for a guy that’s so young in his Test career it looks like the Australians were certainly respecting him in the way that they’re playing him. I thought his spell before he got injured was absolutely outstanding.

“He’ll be a big loss for us. Ben Sears for us as the closest I guess like for like replacement that we thought we could find. We wanted someone with some genuine pace. Ben’s done that he’s had recent international success against Australia as well which was part of the decision-making and in going with him as the replacement for Will.”

Sears, who has taken 58 first-class wickets at 27.03, bowled superbly in the two T20Is against Australia just before the Test series. He knocked over Travis Head in the second match in Auckland and took three wickets in his two appearances, troubling Australia’s batters with good pace and bounce. He trained with New Zealand on Wednesday during their nets session at St Mark’s school in Wellington ahead of the first Test. He was bowling alongside Wagner and clean bowled Daryl Mitchell with a beauty.

Captain Tim Southee was asked at the end of the Wellington Test whether there was a possibility of recalling Wagner out of retirement and did not rule it out emphatically. But Stead said it did not ever reach a stage where they asked Wagner about it.

“We didn’t get there with it,” Stead said. “He had made his decision he was comfortable with it. We reconsidered a number of things but we thought in this case that the pace of Ben Sears and what he’s bought to to us and international cricket so far is the difference that we needed.

“Neil had a fitting send-off last night with the team. They celebrated everything he’s done, and Neil was happy with the decision of where he’s got to around that as well.”

Stead defended the performance of Scott Kuggeleijn, just as Southee had on Sunday, after the seamer took just two wickets for the match and fell for a duck in the first innings playing a very loose shot at a critical time in the match. But the coach admitted they had once again misread the pitch at the Basin Reserve after leaving out Mitchell Santner in order to play four seamers, just as they had in their previous Test in Hamilton, and did note that it was a cause for concern.

“Yes, it is. Yeah, definitely,” Stead said. “If we knew it was going to spin, not so much the spin but more the bounce, then Santner would have played. So yeah, we got that wrong. Put our hand up around that as well. It’s not what we expected, not what we’ve seen from the Basin Reserve in the past either.”

Stead was asked about his relationship with Southee after some of the decision-making that has been made in recent weeks both in selection and in terms of tactics on the field. Southee’s decision not to bowl Glenn Phillips at all in the first innings when Australia’s last pair of Cameron Green and Josh Hazlewood shared a 116-run stand has come in for criticism but Stead said the relationship was healthy.

“[It’s] good. I’ve got a lot of respect for Tim,” Stead said. “We don’t agree on all the decisions that are made but that’s healthy as well.

“There’s different ways of looking at that. It’s easy in hindsight to look back and say, oh, you didn’t get a wicket for a session, so something must be wrong. Equally, when we do take a lot of wickets you should say the same thing, geez, the bowling plans were very good. So that’s the game of cricket. It can change so quickly. I thought at times in the second innings Tim was excellent. His changes were spot on. So there’s always things to discuss between a coach and a captain and we always do that.”

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