No Neil Wagner as Ben Sears named in New Zealand squad for second Test vs Australia

NEW DELHI: Wellington’s uncapped fast bowler Ben Sears will step in for Will O’Rourke in New Zealand’s squad for the second Test against Australia, dashing fans’ hopes of a Neil Wagner return.
O’Rourke’s absence from the Christchurch match, starting Friday due to a hamstring injury, sparked speculation that the beloved Wagner might end his retirement to aid the Black Caps in leveling the series.
However, New Zealand coach Gary Stead dismissed these speculations, stating that the selectors opted for a “like-for-like” replacement by selecting Sears.
Sears boasts an average of 27.03 in 19 first-class matches.
“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,” Stead told reporters on Monday.
“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.”
Opener Devon Conway, who was ruled out of the first Test with a fractured thumb, will also miss the second Test along with a large chunk of the Indian Premier League (IPL) as he recovers from surgery.
The Chennai Super Kings batter should return for the IPL in May and be fit for the T20 World Cup starting in the Caribbean and the United States in June.
New Zealand were thrashed by 172 runs within four days in the Wellington opener on Sunday, having opted for an all-seam attack on a wicket that proved conducive to spin.
Australia spinner Nathan Lyon had a 10-wicket haul at the Basin Reserve, while New Zealand all-rounder Glenn Phillips took five second innings wickets with his part-time off-spin, having not been given a bowl in the first innings.
New Zealand selectors were criticised for snubbing spin-bowling all-rounder Mitch Santner in favour of the fourth seamer Scott Kuggeleijn, having also overlooked Santner for the second Test in Hamilton against South Africa.
The hosts got away with it against the second-string Proteas, claiming a seven-wicket win, but there was no hiding behind the result in Wellington.
Stead admitted selectors had misread the Basin Reserve pitch.
“Yes, it is (a concern). Yeah, definitely,” he 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.”
(With inputs from Reuters)

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