Covers sport across NZME's print, digital and radio brands.

Cricket: Astle set to receive New Zealand recall

Todd Astle has excelled for Canterbury this season. Photo / Getty Images
Todd Astle has excelled for Canterbury this season. Photo / Getty Images

Todd Astle looks set to get an international recall and place himself in contention for the World T20 in India during March.

Accurate spin bowling shapes as a factor which could determine the tournament winner, and New Zealand are still shoring up the Daniel Vettori void.

Vettori retired after a pivotal role in the World Cup when his left-arm orthodox deliveries regularly stymied run rates.

New Zealand coach Mike Hesson intimated Astle would receive an opportunity in the Pakistan T20 series, starting in Auckland on Friday, when asked whether the 29-year-old Cantabrian was in their thinking.

"He is," Hesson replied. "Todd's one who has performed well domestically for a decent period in all forms, and he's a multi-skilled cricketer."

Astle picked an optimal time to deliver another strong Ford Trophy display yesterday, helping Canterbury stay unbeaten at the top of the table with a comfortable six-wicket victory over Auckland.

He took three for 44 from his allotment at Eden Park's outer oval, with the New Zealand team training nearby. It gave him 11 competition wickets at 11.18, conceding 3.61 an over from five matches.

Last week he also hit 59 against Otago, after coming to the wicket when Canterbury were 8-3 in the seventh over.

Astle earned a solitary test cap in the victory against Sri Lanka at Colombo in 2012. He is one of six New Zealand players, alongside Andre Adams, Gary Robertson, Mark Haslam, Luke Ronchi and Peter Webb, to have never lost a test.

Hesson said at least three spinners would feature in their 15-strong World T20 squad, but the difficulty came in trialling all of them in the matches against Sri Lanka (two) and Pakistan (three) in New Zealand's more pace-friendly conditions.

"You can't roll them out and give them the same opportunity. It's always a balancing act.
"We know what we'll face in India. The wickets will be conducive to high-scoring and many will be played under lights. If the guys bowl well here and defend, they'll be useful in those conditions."

If off-spinning all-rounder Nathan McCullum recovers from his knee injury, expect him to make the World T20 squad in what will be his career finale. He excelled with 13 wickets at 16.69 and an economy rate of 5.71 during the Georgie Pie Super Smash.

Mitchell Santner should also tour after strengthening his position as a limited overs all-rounder since debuting in England last year.

Ish Sodhi is another contender who had limited opportunities in the ODIs against Sri Lanka, but took 1-33 in the Mt Maunganui T20 to keep the visitors below the required run rate.

Sodhi conceded a parsimonious 6.84, taking seven wickets at 32.28 during the domestic T20, compared with Astle's 6.48 on his way to seven wickets at 26.85.

The other contenders are Auckland's Tarun Nethula (11 GPSS wickets at 25.72 and economy rate 6.73) and Canterbury's Ronnie Hira (11 wickets at 18.18 and 6.45). The 32-year-old Nethula last played for New Zealand in 2012; 28-year-old Hira's most recent showing was in 2013.

Three things to watch

New Zealand v Sri Lanka, 2nd T20I

1. Can Colin Munro give the white ball the purity of oblivion?

The day Munro clicks in international colours will be one to treasure. The selectors have persevered with him, but he has struggled for consistency. The day is bound to come when the world record holder for the most sixes in a first-class innings If he starts connecting, you want to be there. Could today be the day?

2. Can Ross Taylor nestle into No 5?

The move to combat Brendon McCullum's retirement has merit. Left-handers Munro and Corey Anderson get extra resources to blast from Nos 3 and 4, and right-hander Taylor steadies from No 5. That methodology enables New Zealand to split their most reliable batsmen in all formats - Williamson and Taylor - and gives others a licence to unfurl.

The plan worked well in the first match at Bay Oval where Taylor cobbled 22 from nine balls entering in the 17th over. His experience came to the fore. This is still the man who hammered 55 runs from 13 balls against Pakistan at the World Cup in Pallekele four years ago in the second half of 131 off 124 balls.

3. Can Matt Henry keep taking wickets?

The David Banner/Incredible Hulk of the team has produced some extraordinary performances in the four limited overs matches against Sri Lanka, taking 16 wickets. He is the calm Banner in his usual demeanour and approach to the crease, but woe betide if a ball strikes the batsman's pads or the edge of their bat. Out comes his Hulk appeal, using lungs Dame Kiri Te Kanawa would envy. He must make a batsman think their benefit of the doubt is non-existent.

- Herald on Sunday

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 21 Oct 2016 23:23:14 Processing Time: 621ms