Daniel Vettori was so good that New Zealand once turned to Vettori in the search for his own replacement.

That test, against Pakistan in Sharjah in 2014, was a resounding win for New Zealand and put a fullstop on Vettori's test career, which had for intents and purposes had ended in the West Indies more than two years earlier.

New Zealand's search for a reliable spin-bowling replacement for Vettori is four-and-a-half years on and counting. The haste with which they are bringing Mitchell Santner back from a broken wrist suggest the selectors finally believe they have found their man.

In terms of mode of bowling and hometown, they needn't have looked far but it has been a circuitous journey to get back to a left-arm orthodox Hamiltonian.


In the post-Vettori years, spinners, including Vettori, have taken 171-7605 off 2334.1 overs. That represents an average of 44.5 runs per wicket, vastly inferior to Vettori's career average of 34.4.

Often the role of the spinner, especially on unresponsive New Zealand pitches, is to tie up an end. The post-Vettori spin economy rate of 3.3 runs per over also pales in comparison to Vettori's 2.6.

There are a few junk-ball overs among that lot, think an over each of left-arm orthodox delivered by Daniel Flynn and Hamish Rutherford.

There are a few more moderate part-time overs, notably five overs of wrist spin delivered by Aaron Redmond in Dunedin against the West Indies and Martin Guptill's 25 overs of offspin.

Kane Williamson is a step above part-time and a rung below a recognised allrounder, though since Vettori's departure in 2012, in between being banned for throwing, he has bowled 303 overs and taken 22 wickets.

More worryingly, his post-Vettori average of 33.6 and economy rate of 2.4 RPO is better than any of the spinners tried (except Vettori himself, whose body of work in that one test was small).


All the signs thus far suggest Williamson will use himself sparingly as a bowler but the numbers suggest - though far from compellingly - that he's doing his team more harm than good by this.

Santner may not possess a classical action, but he looks like the best of the rest, with an average under 40 and an economy rate around 3 RPO, both essential benchmarks for a test-class spinner.

Interestingly, there has been just one bag of five picked up by a spinner in New Zealand's post-Vettori world, the 7-94 picked up by Craig while playing alongside Vettori in Sharjah.

Mike Hesson would have liked that to have represented a metaphorical passing of the baton, but it hasn't quite worked out like that.