By Niall Anderson in Melbourne

COMMENT:

Mitchell Santner's spot in the Black Caps test side is under serious scrutiny after he was handed the ultimate humiliation by captain Kane Williamson.

Santner was dragged from the New Zealand bowling attack after his poor returns continued on day two of the second test against Australia, and after lunch, the ball had promptly been handed to Tom Blundell.

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Yes, Blundell – New Zealand's back-up wicketkeeper and newly promoted opener – had bowled a grand total of 54 balls in first-class cricket, yet here he was, bowling against Australia at the MCG.

It was a remarkable statement for Williamson to make, and despite bowling a few rank long-hops, Blundell also produced the most threatening ball delivered by a New Zealand spinner, beating the outside edge of Travis Head.

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There had been hope for Santner's prospects as a test all-rounder after he shone against England at Mount Maunganui, hitting 126 and taking three fourth-innings wickets in a match-winning display.

However, he couldn't build on that performance, taking 1-88 in the second test in Hamilton, conceding 146 wicketless runs in Perth, and now producing figures of 0-82 in Melbourne, with his bowling average ballooning back out to 45.3.

Black Caps bowler Mitchell Santner. Photo / Photosport
Black Caps bowler Mitchell Santner. Photo / Photosport

Santner's struggles comes with the caveat of bowling in conditions which aren't ideal for spinners, but he had been selected with that in mind, with the Black Caps hoping he could at least contribute some runs, and be accurate and economical with the ball.

He has done neither in Australia, with Jeet Raval looking more threatening in Perth – and taking more wickets – and now Williamson looks to have lost faith in his frontline spinner.

Santner only bowled seven overs on day one, in five spells, and was only given two overs before lunch, one of which was deposited for 12 runs, to give him the ugly figures of 9-1-49-0 at the break.

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With Williamson seemingly also reluctant to bowl himself, that saw Blundell – who bowled off-spin at age-group level before taking up keeping, and had been bowling in the nets – given a chance.

Tom Blundell made his test bowling debut at the MCG. Photo / Photosport
Tom Blundell made his test bowling debut at the MCG. Photo / Photosport

That decision potentially signals the end of Santner's run in the test side. While Williamson threw him the ball again later in the day, he remained wicketless, and unless he makes a significant contribution with the bat, or manages to drastically change his fortunes with the ball in the second innings, it would be hard to justify his selection for the third test.

Canterbury all-rounder Todd Astle is the obvious replacement in the squad, especially with the final test at the SCG likely to provide the most assistance for spinners, while the Black Caps could always call Will Somerville into the squad, if willing to cop to the fact their initial selections had been misguided.

While Astle seemingly commands little faith from the Black Caps' brains trust, if the leg-spinner isn't used in Sydney, he might start to wonder if he'll ever get another opportunity.

It looks as if Santner may have used up all of his.