The Black Caps have sprung a major surprise, calling veteran spinner Will Somerville into their test squad to play Pakistan later this month.

Don't know the name? You wouldn't be alone, considering Somerville only this year returned to New Zealand cricket, after spending a decade in Australia.

Remarkably, six of those years came without Somerville playing top-level cricket, with the Wellington-born 34-year-old playing grade cricket in Sydney from 2008-2014, before being picked for New South Wales.

There, the late bloomer shone in the 2016-2017 Sheffield Shield, taking 35 wickets at 23.14, but he found his opportunities limited behind Australian Test spinners Nathan Lyon and Steve O'Keefe.

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So, back to New Zealand he came, linking up with Auckland with the intentions of pushing for a Black Caps spot, but it is a big surprise – and a definite reflection on New Zealand's weak spinning stocks – that his opportunity has come this early.

However, an injury to Todd Astle – plus the ongoing absence of Mitchell Santner – opened a door for Somerville to join Ish Sodhi and Ajaz Patel as the third spinner in the test squad.

Somerville, who took seven wickets in his two Plunket Shield games before bowling adequately but unspectacularly in the one-day Ford Trophy, replaces Astle, with the unlucky leg-spinner being ruled out of the remainder of the tour.

Astle picked up the injury during the recent New Zealand A one-day series and selector Gavin Larsen said he wouldn't be able to cope with the workload expected in the ODI and test series' against Pakistan.

"Despite a period of rest, Todd's knee has, unfortunately, not responded as well as we had hoped," said Larsen.

"The best course of action for Todd is to get home and get it looked at, with an eye to returning in the home summer."

Larsen said Somerville had impressed the selectors since his return.

"We've been keeping a close eye on Will and like the look of his all-round game and skillset.

"He bowls with good control and variation, while his added height means he gets that extra bit of bounce.

"The test squad already has a leg-spinner in Ish Sodhi and a left-arm spinner in Ajaz Patel, so we think Will's right arm off-spin will balance out the attack nicely."

Somerville will fly out to the UAE on Saturday to link up with the Black Caps ahead of the first test in Abu Dhabi on November 16.