Wicketkeeper Tim Blundell, who made a century on his test debut but has yet to play a one-day international, has been included in New Zealand’s 15-man squad for the cricket World Cup.
The 28-year-old Blundell was the major surprise in the squad announced Wednesday by coach Gary Stead and selector Gavin Larsen. New Zealand is the first nation to name its World Cup lineup.
Blundell has played two tests and three Twenty20 internationals but missed New Zealand’s last domestic ODI season and has averaged only 23 at a strike-rate of 79 in 40 List A matches.
He came into contention when New Zealand officials decided they needed a specialist keeper to back up wicketkeeper-batsman Tom Latham at the World Cup, which starts May 30 in England.
Tim Seifert, an aggressive top-order batsman who has ODI experience and scored 84 and 43 in T20 internationals against India this season, was likely the preferred candidate to back up Latham before breaking a finger in the final round of the domestic season.
Seifert will be over that injury in time for the World Cup but Blundell, New Zealand’s back-up test keeper behind B.J. Watling, is now seen as a better gloveman.
The selection of leg-spinner Ish Sodhi ahead of Todd Astle is the other talking point of the squad.
Astle appeared to have edged ahead in the race for the specialist spinner’s berth when he was chosen for New Zealand’s final ODI series of the summer against Bangladesh. But he has played only nine ODIs and selectors may have been swayed by the greater experience of Sodhi, who has played 30 ODIs.
Astle bowls into the wicket more than Sodhi and was thought likely to be suited to English conditions, but Sodhi has recently been in outstanding form, taking 26 wickets in his last four first-class matches.
Hard-hitting batsman Colin Munro has been retained despite a recent loss of form which saw him lose his opening role to Henry Nicholls, who now combines at the top of the order with Martin Guptill. Munro has been chosen as back up in middle order.
Among a bevy of allrounders, Colin de Grandhomme appears to have edged out Doug Bracewell for the final spot. De Grandhomme has stronger batting credentials and his medium pace swing bowling may also suit English conditions.
The other allrounders are Jimmy Neesham and left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner.
Seamers Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry have both been in good form throughout the domestic summer and have been selected alongside the regular new ball pair Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
The squad was named at Tai Tapu Primary School, a small country school near Christchurch. Expectations of the team are high after New Zealand reached the final of the last World Cup in 2015 which it co-hosted with eventual champion Australia.
“There’s had to be some tough calls and there will be some disappointed players,” Stead said. “The key for us was finding the right balance for the squad and making sure we had our bases covered for what is going to be a very competitive World Cup.”