Cricket: Blackcaps name squad for Sri Lankan test series

The Blackcaps have named four spin bowlers in their 15-man test squad for the upcoming two-match tour of Sri Lanka next month. 

Blackcaps coach Gary Stead announced the squad at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui on Monday as the new World test Championship was officially launched, with New Zealand's first assignment starting in Galle on August 14.

Mitchell Santner, who was apart of the Blackcaps' Cricket World Cup squad, will lead the four-pronged spin lineup, which also includes Todd Astle and Ajaz Patel and off-spinner Will Somerville - who last played for New Zealand eight months ago in the United Arab Emirates.

Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi is the unlucky one as he missed out on selection, having played the second test of that Pakistan series in Dubai in November when Santner, who hasn't played a test since 2017, and Astle were both out injured.

"Playing three spinners is an option in Sri Lankan conditions, and we believe this group provides the best variations and skill mix on offer," said Stead. 

"England were playing three spinners against Sri Lanka on their successful visit there last year, and the slow bowlers also dominated the previous series against South Africa." 

The concentration of spin bowling reserves leaves Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Colin de Grandhomme as the pace bowling options, meaning Matt Henry misses out. 

Kane Williamson will lead the side with fellow regulars Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor and Bj Watling also taking part. 

Tom Blundell will act as wicket-keeping and batting cover.

Stead said the Blackcaps squad and coaching staff were looking forward to the start of the World test Championship and the challenges presented by the new structure for test cricket.

"It's good timing for us after the World Cup. 

"It was an incredible time for the team and the country, but we're now excited to move forward as a group and sink our teeth into another opportunity." 

The new-look test championship will see players play with names and numbers on the back of their white shirts for the first time, starting on Thursday when England face Australia in the first Ashes match.  

The Blackcaps will depart for Sir Lanka on Friday. 

Blackcaps test squad to play Sri Lanka: Kane Williamson, Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Tom Blundell, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Todd Astle, Tim Southee, Will Somerville, Neil Wagner, Ajaz Patel, Trent Boult.