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No Wagner recall as Sears named in NZ squad for second Test

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New Zealands Neil Wagner gives the thumbs up to fans as he walks from the field during day one of the 1st International cricket Test match between New Zealand and Australia. — AFP/File
New Zealand’s Neil Wagner gives the thumbs up to fans as he walks from the field during day one of the 1st International cricket Test match between New Zealand and Australia. — AFP/File

AUCKLAND: Uncapped Wellington fast bowler Ben Sears will replace Will O’Rourke in New Zealand’s squad for the second Test against Australia, quashing fans’ hopes of a Neil Wagner recall.

O’Rourke was ruled out of the Christchurch match starting Friday with a hamstring injury, raising speculation fan favourite Wagner might come out of retirement to help the Black Caps square the series.

New Zealand coach Gary Stead poured cold water on that, saying selectors had gone for a “like-for-like” replacement for O’Rourke in picking Sears, who has 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.”

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