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Players can make the most of Williamson, Taylor’s absence: Gary Stead

Auckland : New Zealand cricket team head coach Gary Stead feels the absence of the injured regular skipper Kane Williamson and the retirement of Ross Taylor will offer several players an opportunity to showcase their ability against South Africa in the two-Test home series beginning at Christchurch on February 17.The Blackcaps announced a new-look 15-member squad for the opening Test with Williamson out with an elbow injury, and Taylor no longer part of the set-up having retired from Test cricket. The elbow injury has prevented Williamson from playing international cricket since December, and while there were reports that he would lead the side against the Proteas, he is still a few weeks away from complete recovery.Stead also said that Williamson was itching to play Test cricket but the injury was holding him back.”Kane desperately wants to play for NZ, this is hurting him not playing,” Stead told SENZ Mornings on Tuesday.

“And losing Ross (Taylor) was always going to leave a big hole. There is no doubt that we will miss that experience that he has, but it always provides an opportunity for other players. I’m looking forward to seeing (Henry) Nicholls and (Daryl) Mitchell stepping up into those boots.”Stead said that Will Young and stand-in skipper Tom Latham would likely open the innings, while prolific run-getter Devon Conway will come in at No. 3.”I think (Will) Young and (Tom) Latham will continue to open, they did it last series (against Bangladesh) and it went well. Devon Conway will bat at three, and then I think four and five you’ll see (Henry) Nicholls and (Daryl) Mitchell, and we will just have a think around what order that will be in. We’re trying to limit wholesale changes throughout, but Taylor and Williamson are very hard people to replace.”One of the most surprising selection calls has been the inclusion of Colin de Grandhomme, who has struggled over the last year-and-a-half after suffering a foot injury, but has shown improvement of late both with the bat and ball.

“He looks like the Colin (de Grandhomme) of old that can go in and destroy attacks,” the ICC World Test Championship winning coach said. “We know with the ball he can be a real handful on a wicket with a bit of nibble. It’s a decision we will have to make when we get a bit closer to the match, do we go that way or for (Rachin) Ravindra for example, as a spinning all-rounder.”Stead felt that pace bowler Blair Tickner will make up for the absence of Trent Boult, who is awaiting the birth of his first child.”With Trent out, we were looking around at our bowlers, and Colin can cover some medium paced swing, but we were looking for someone in more of an enforcing role. Tickner is someone we have had our eyes on for a while. He has the ability to swing the ball and get some good heavy bounce as well.”New Zealand have never won a Test series against South Africa, while the tourists are on a high after defeating India in the three-Test series.”They’re a formidable line-up South Africa, and they will be coming in with a lot of confidence. We are going to have to be at our very best to be competing with these guys, and hopefully get the win,” added Stead.



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