Andrew Fidel Fernando
Forever on the brink of gaining a steady run in New Zealand’s Test team, but often just kept out by the three senior seamers, Matt Henry may have to wait until the Bangladesh series in late February and March to play his next Test match.
Henry may have hoped that he would have played in at least one of the five Tests scheduled across November and December, but, having carried drinks through the three-Test tour of the UAE as well as in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Wellington, Henry seems likely to miss out again in Christchurch, with coach Gary Stead confident that his three first-choice seamers will be fresh come the Boxing Day Test.
“Matt’s an integral part of our squad still, and sometimes opportunities are hard to come by,” Stead said. “But we’ve got a long summer ahead of us still and in terms of the forward planning that we’ve looked at throughout the summer, there are probably chances for people to come out and freshen up with a bigger view to the World Cup down the track. I still think Matt will get a good amount of cricket over the summer.”
If Henry does not make the XI of the Boxing Day Test, it willl be despite the fact that the series in the UAE and at home have run so close together that captain Kane Williamson described it as effectively a “five-match series” – the kind of undertaking that would generally require a team to use its seam-bowling depth. There is also the matter of Trent Boult and Tim Southee having bowled 52 overs apiece in the Wellington Test, and Neil Wagner having sent down 43 overs. As there are six days between the two Sri Lanka Tests, though, that trio has a good chance of remaining unchanged.
“One of the things that has happened in the UAE is that two of the Test matches were over in four days, and in one of them we only bowled once as well,” Stead said. “Where we thought the number of overs for the fast bowlers would have been really, really big, we’re certainly not at that stage. I take on board though, that both Tim and Trent both bowled 50 or a bit more overs than that in this Test. I guess we will monitor how they are over the next three or four days. I think we have enough time to be able to select who we think our very best team is, because they would have recovered.”
If there is an outside chance of Henry playing in Christchurch, it may be because of a mild dip in form for one of the incumbents rather than fatigue. Wagner collected figures of 0 for 100 in the second innings at Wellington, and 2 for 175 from the game in general – numbers that Stead put down to Sri Lanka’s handling of his short-pitched bowling.
“Sri Lanka played Neil really well and it was probably some of the best batting I’ve seen against him in a while. I think everyone in world cricket knows the way he’s likely to bowl. I think Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews played him really well. They were gritty as well. They took a few on the body and I haven’t seen too many people do that. I don’t think on the fourth morning Neil was at his best, but in the afternoon sessions he bowled really well but got little reward.”