Herald's cricket writers David Leggat, Andrew Alderson and Dylan Cleaver cast their eyes over the Black Caps squad to face Pakistan.

1. What is the thinking behind picking Colin de Grandhomme?

David Leggat:

My pick is he'll be carrying the drinks, with one rider. De Grandhomme is essentially vying with Neesham for No 6. They are different types of bowlers. Neesham is a touch quicker and bouncier; de Grandhomme tends to find swing and push it up further. If the selectorial minds think he might be better suited to the pitch conditions than Neesham he could get in, but unlikely. He is known as a mighty hitter but has been short on discipline in the past. That was then, and his match-winning century for Auckland against Otago recently proved the point.

Andrew Alderson: Presumably, he's selected as all-rounder cover for Jimmy Neesham. De Grandhomme offers power with the bat, accuracy with the ball, a safe pair of hands and a strong arm in the outfield.


His 144 not out got Auckland home against Otago at Eden Park outer oval last month, and he's averaging 54 this season. He scored seven 50s and a century last season and is understood to have got some nibble from the seam with 17 wickets at 25.76. He could conceivably contribute a dozen overs in an innings.

If he gets an all-rounder's chance, you suspect he'd need to seize it with Corey Anderson trying to get back bowling regularly and Mitchell Santner only absent temporarily.

Dylan Cleaver: You assume he is there as allrounder cover for the fragile Jimmy Neesham. For the balance of this side it is important to have a batsman who can bowl 10 overs a day of serviceable seam. The likes of Corey Anderson, Neesham and de Grandhomme cannot play as batsmen only. It restricts Williamson's options too much. He's an intriguing batsman. He doesn't always look the soundest, but he can strike a long ball.

2. Which pace bowler drops out of the starting XI


Henry, which is tough on a guy who did well in India. Boult must play and in my book, so too Wagner for his bullish up and at 'em approach. His numbers also aren't half bad either. Southee showed he regained some form with seven for 83 off 31 overs in Northern Districts' win over Canterbury this week. But if he plays he'll need a good test. Nothing beats having rivals breathing down the neck to concentrate the mind, and offer alternatives. All this assumes Todd Astle will be in to provide the spin. He should be too, just for balance.

Alderson: Tim Southee, at this point, despite his experience and a resurgence in limited overs form. Matt Henry's hunger in India warrants selection and left-armers Trent Boult and Neil Wagner look relatively assured with their recent records - Wagner apparently missed the third test with a 'back niggle' - but the selectors presumably want some form of variation to regularly take the ball away from Pakistan's right-hand heavy batting line-up. That could give Southee an edge, so to speak, but a 2016 red-ball record of 14 wickets at 46.14 highlight his test struggles. Henry's toil as the best bowler with six for 105 against India at Kolkata, and none for 149 in Indore, surely deserve an opportunity in the more conducive pace bowling conditions of Christchurch and Hamilton.

Cleaver: Excellent question. Even if they turn on a green-top at Hagley, you imagine Todd Astle and one of the above allrounders will play. That leaves Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Tim Southee fighting over three spots. Boult will play, you can bet dollars to donuts on that. I suspect they like Matt Henry as a right-armer who can hit the seam. That would leave a choice between Southee and Wagner. If it were me, I'd go for Wagner because he makes things happen, can bowl long spells with the old ball and you are in no doubt about what you're going to get. Southee came back for the India ODI series and looked as good as he's been since the early rounds of the World Cup. He also has the advantage of taking the ball away from the five right-handers in the Pakistani top six. However, his test form has been so underwhelming of late, including a poor match at Hagley against Australia recently, that he misses out on my team (though I suspect he makes Williamson's).

3. Which batsman is under the most pressure to score runs?


Three candidates: Jeet Raval, Henry Nicholls and Ross Taylor. Raval will get cut some slack on debut, but Nicholls is very much still a work in progress. It is clear the selectors like him, but it's all about productivity. Nicholls had his best test innings against South Africa at Centurion, before being dropped next up in India. It's his home pitch and this is a good time to clear his throat. Taylor is in a wretched run of form. Set aside his monumental 290 in Perth last summer. He scored just one half century before Perth in 10 innings and since then, excluding the Zimbabwe trip, has been in a real slump. He's been a fine batsman, an anchor for years, but he's starting to become a worry. He'll know he needs runs too.

Alderson: Ross Taylor. As the senior pro, his form slump has exacerbated the test batting woes. That sort of pressure comes with the territory when you've played 76 tests, have an average of 46.24, and are considered one of the best batsmen New Zealand has produced. History will record that with Williamson he is half of this country's best sustained 3-4 test partnership. However, the No.4 made 89 runs at an average of 14.83 in India. Include the South African tour and that extends to 92 runs at 11.50. Those figures are at complete odds with his 364 unbeaten runs against Zimbabwe. His difficulties must be sutured early in the home summer to offer the best chance of success.

Cleaver: The obvious answer is Henry Nicholls who has failed to make the most of his opportunities at test (or even first-class) level to date. However, when you look closely at Ross Taylor's numbers, he is in need of some quality runs. Take away his cheap runs against Zimbabwe and he has been in a woeful slump since his Perth heroics. In that time he has scored 203 non-Zimbabwe runs in 15 innings at an average of 14.5. There is a genuine fear among many that he is on the slide and that will put untold pressure on Williamson to be the man.