Addition of Astle boosts spin bowling stocks

Todd Astle. Photo: Getty Images
Todd Astle. Photo: Getty Images
Todd Astle in.

Otago pair Jimmy Neesham and Neil Broom out.

New Zealand Cricket [NZC] has released its contract offers for the 2018-19 season and it is a list void of surprises.

Canterbury all-rounder Astle is included for the first time but his promotion was well signposted. He played in the first test against England and seems to have pulled ahead of Ish Sodhi as the country's leading leg spinner in the longer format of the game primarily because of his superior ability with the bat.

Black Caps selector Gavin Larsen said Astle featured in the selectors' plans for the next 12 months.

''Todd's progress over the past 12 months has been exciting to see,'' Larsen said.

''When fit, he made the most of his opportunities in both test and ODI cricket.

''We have a big summer ahead - we know Todd performs well in New Zealand conditions, and we also have a spin-friendly tour against Pakistan coming up.

''Between Todd, Ish and Mitchell [Santner], our spin bowling stocks have probably never looked better.''

There was no room for leading domestic spinner Ajaz Patel or Otago off-spinner Mark Craig.

Patel, in particular, can count himself unlucky. He was the top wicket-taker in the Plunket Shield this season with 48 wickets at an average of 21.52.

Neesham and Broom would have seen their demotion coming. Neither had a memorable domestic season.

Neesham found some form with the bat late in the summer but his bowling looks a long way off international level at the moment.

Broom has been a prolific scorer for Otago and Canterbury over the years. He has amassed 6052 for Otago at an average of 42.02, including 15 centuries.

But he appeared to struggle for motivation this season. The 34-year-old right-hander got a lot of starts but was unable to get past 50 in any format for the Volts.

''Jimmy and Neil didn't show the consistency required over the past year and we'd like to see them go back and demand our attention again through domestic performance,'' Larsen said.

``We'll continue to monitor the progress of a number of fringe players, who will have the chance to continue to push their case through the New Zealand A programme and home domestic season.''

While a new master agreement between NZC and the New Zealand Cricket Players Association has yet to be finalised, an arrangement has been reached to allow the contracting process to take place in a timely fashion.

Set criteria are used to rank players across all three forms of the game, with tests receiving twice the weighting of ODIs and twenty20 internationals.

The number of contracts has decreased by one this year.

Astle is the only new player offered a contract; all the usual suspects have retained their spots. Otago's Neil Wagner is the sole Otago representative.

Larsen said there were some tough calls, but the door remained open for those who missed out.

Accepted contracts will come into effect from August 1.

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