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Watling doubt for opening Test against West Indies

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Wicketkeeper BJ Watling is a doubt for New Zealand’s opening Test against West Indies due to a hip injury with the uncapped Tom Blundell in line for a debut if Watling is not available.

The problem has forced Watling to sit out the last two rounds of Plunket Shield matches for Northern Districts. He will play as a batsman only against Auckland this week before what will effectively be a fitness test against Otago at the end of the month where he will have to keep wicket to be available for the first Test in Wellington on December 1.

If Watling can’t take his place at the Basin Reserve – it would be the first Test he has missed since Headingley against England in 2013 – it would mean a first cap for 27-year-old Blundell who has previously played one T20I and has been included in the New Zealand A side to face West Indies in their warm-up match from November 25.

The cloud over Watling was the only uncertainty in a settled 12-man New Zealand squad, resuming Test cricket for the first time since March, although one further player will be added to the party following the A side’s fixture. Colin de Grandhomme has retained his place as the seam-bowling allrounder while Matt Henry is the extra pace bowler behind the established trio of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner.

West Indies could face a lively welcome to their tour with the New Zealand A side including three rapid pacemen in Adam Milne, Lockie Ferguson and Scott Kuggeleijn. Ferguson recently took a career-best match haul of 12 for 78 against Otago.

Martin Guptill will captain the A side which also includes incumbent Test opener Jeet Raval alongside Colin Munro after his successful limited-overs tour of India and legspinner Todd Astle who was forced home from that trip with a groin strain.

“While the Blackcaps squad doesn’t have too many surprises, this NZ A team certainly shows that we have depth and quality players who are pushing for higher honours,” selector Gavin Larsen said.

“Watching the three quickest bowlers in NZ operating together will certainly be exciting, and all three have plenty to play for. We are looking to develop Martin’s leadership capabilities and the NZ A match is another good opportunity.”

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