New Zealand announce Test squad to Zimbabwe and SA

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Ish Sodhi, who has not played Test cricket since the series against Pakistan in 2014, also earned a recall.

Jeet Raval’s successful run in the Plunket Shield for Auckland has earned him a spot in New Zealand’s Test squad for its tour of Zimbabwe and South Africa starting in July, with two Tests each against both oppositions.

Raval made 780 runs at the top of the order in eight games at an average of 55.71 with three centuries – including an unbeaten 202 as his highest score – and two half-centuries, to guide Auckland Aces to the title in the 2015-16 season.

Ish Sodhi, who has not played Test cricket since the series against Pakistan in 2014, also earned a recall.

Raval, 27, was born in Gujarat and has represented the state at the under-15 and under-17 levels. He moved to Auckland in 2004 and since being drafted into the first-class side in 2008, he has made 4912 runs from 67 games at 43.85.

“Jeet has been impressive in the Plunket Shield for a number of years now and in the past 12 months we’ve seen his maturity and decision-making continue to improve,” said Mike Hesson, the New Zealand coach. “He’s learnt to adapt to conditions and has performed well for New Zealand A, so we believe he’s more than ready to make the step up to the international arena.

“Ish was outstanding in all formats during the second half of last season, beginning with his performances in the Plunket Shield for Northern Districts. He was also exceptional for us with the white ball last summer and that’s seen him gain valuable confidence on the international stage.”

Sodhi was one of New Zealand’s standout performers in the ICC World T20 2016, and is part of the three-prong spin attack comprising Mark Craig and Mitchell Santner.

New Zealand will depart on July 11 for an eight-day camp in Johannesburg, before the opening Test against Zimbabwe on July 29. They play two Tests against Zimbabwe in Harare, with the second match starting on August 6. They will then travel back to South Africa for Test matches in Durban and Centurion, starting on August 19 and August 27.

Hesson also pointed to the conditions in terms of how the balance of the squad was decided.

“Having played in both Zimbabwe and South Africa last year, we have some insight into what the pitches could be like this time around and we’ve selected our squad accordingly,” he explained. “Playing two Tests in Harare, we need to be prepared for dry turning surfaces, but also know Durban often has a good covering of grass.”

Test squad for Africa tour: Kane Williamson (captain), Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Mark Craig, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi (wk), Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling (wk).

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