Boult back in New Zealand T20I squad; Williamson on paternity leave

New Zealand
Trent Boult is back in New Zealand’s squad as they prepare for the T20 World Cup with a three-match T20I series at home against Australia, which begins on February 21 in Wellington.

The left-arm seamer, though, has been picked for only the second and third T20Is. He is currently with MI Emirates in UAE’s ILT20 league, where his franchise has made it to the knockouts. Should MI Emirates make Saturday’s final, Boult will only have a six-day break before he lines up for New Zealand in the second T20I in Auckland.

Boult’s return is a significant boost to a New Zealand side that will be without its regular captain Kane Williamson, who is on paternity leave, and premier allrounder Daryl Mitchell, who is undergoing rehab for a long-term foot injury. Mitchell has been carrying the injury for around six to seven months and is giving himself the best chance of recovering for the two-match Test series against Australia, which begins on February 29, also in Wellington.
Mitchell’s injury-enforced absence opens up a potential debut for Central Districts’ big-hitting allrounder Josh Clarkson. Clarkson has played three ODIs for New Zealand so far, but is uncapped in T20Is. Since 2020, Clarkson has had a strike rate of 160.07 in the Super Smash, New Zealand’s premier domestic T20 tournament, the highest among all batters who have played more than 30 innings during this period.

Clarkson, 27, hurt his shoulder during the most recent Super Smash, but the injury wasn’t as serious as initially feared and he returned to action for Central Districts in the 50-over Ford Trophy, where he also pitched in with the ball.

“It’s been pretty crazy really,” Clarkson said, reacting to his T20I call-up. “Pretty crazy to be called up for the Bangladesh series and then now [for] the T20I series against the Aussies…it’s a pretty special feeling.

“Growing up, Aussies are usually the pinnacle and the way they go about their game is sort of something that I try to imitate in my game. But yeah, pretty special feeling for myself and my family as well. I rang the old man yesterday and he’s in shock. He’s already booked his flight.”

New Zealand selection manager Sam Wells was also impressed by Clarkson’s bowling in the ODIs against Bangladesh in December. On his international debut in a rain-hit game in Dunedin, Clarkson came away with 2 for 24 in his four overs.

“Josh hits the ball as long and as hard as anyone and we were encouraged by his performances with the ball in his maiden ODI series against Bangladesh before Christmas,” Wells said.

Jimmy Neesham, who is currently with Rangpur Riders in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), and Michael Bracewell, who is recovering from a finger injury, were unavailable for selection. Mitchell Santner, who will captain the team in place of Williamson, Rachin Ravindra and Glenn Phillips are the spin-bowling allrounders in the squad.
Tim Southee has been picked for only for the opening T20I as New Zealand manage his workload between the South Africa and Australia Test series. Lockie Ferguson, who missed the Super Smash final for Auckland with injury, is fit again, so he replaces young tearaway Ben Sears.

Ferguson will have a chance to prove his fitness and form when he turns out for Auckland in the Ford Trophy this Sunday before he joins the New Zealand set-up on Monday in Wellington. Matt Henry retained his place in the side after impressing against Pakistan in January.

Wells said that that the T20I series against a strong Australia team will tune New Zealand up for the World Cup, which begins in June in the USA and the West Indies.

“Facing Australia is always special for a New Zealand side and even more so when it’s at home in front of a big Kiwi crowd,” he said. “Australia has named a strong squad which is packed with power and match-winners, so it promises to be an entertaining series. With a T20 World Cup just around the corner in June, the series should provide a good gauge of where the sides are at.”

The first T20I will be played at Sky Stadium in Wellington before Australia and New Zealand will move to Eden Park in Auckland for the last two games.

New Zealand squad for Australia T20Is

Mitchell Santner (capt), Finn Allen, Trent Boult (second and third T20Is), Mark Chapman, Josh Clarkson, Devon Conway (wk), Lockie Ferguson, Adam Milne, Matt Henry, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Tim Seifert (wk), Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee (first T20I only)

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