Cricket: Ajaz Patel's wait for Blackcaps home test return continues with omission to face England

Over 14 months on from writing his name into cricket's history books, Blackcaps spinner Ajaz Patel's wait to turn out in a home test continues, after he was overlooked for this month's two test series against England.

In December 2021, Patel became only the third player in the history of cricket to take all 10 wickets in an innings, with figures of 10/119 in the Blackcaps' heavy defeat to India in Mumbai.

However, while a test 10-for would all but guarantee a player continued selection for most other test-playing nations, Patel hasn't been as fortunate.

Ajaz Patel.
Ajaz Patel. Photo credit: Photosport

In fact, in the three home test series since his 10-wicket haul, Patel hasn't even been required in the New Zealand squad - left out to face Bangladesh and South Africa in 2022.

Kiwi conditions favouring seam over spin have left the 34-year-old as the odd man out in the Blackcaps' attack, with much of New Zealand's recent successes built around the fast bowlers.

Of the 14 tests Patel's played for the Blackcaps, only three have come at home, without taking a single wicket. 

Patel's exclusion will continue as England visit over the coming weeks, with legspinner Ish Sodhi - fresh from a career resurgence in the 0-0 series draw with Pakistan last month - selected as the sole specialist spinner.

But as coach Gary Stead explains, Patel's omission is down to a horses-for-courses approach, with any finger-spinning duties to be filled by Michael Bracewell as an all-rounder.

"It's not about Ajaz doing, or not doing, anything," said Stead. "We just felt in terms of the balance of the squad, this gave us more options than just having Ajaz there.

"Michael Bracewell also being in the squad is a slightly different situation. We look at him more in that all-rounder's role. 

"Ajaz doesn't really fit that category for us."

With the first test against England to be played under lights at Mt Maunganui with a pink ball, Sodhi's presence also gives the Blackcaps added variety.

The 30-year-old topped the wicket tally in Pakistan, with 13 strikes at an average of just over 25, compared to Patel's five at over 64.

And the ability to spin the ball both ways as a wrist-spinner made Sodhi the obvious choice for the Blackcaps' selectors to face England. 

"I thought Ish was outstanding in Pakistan," said Stead. "I thought the pace he bowled at, and his accuracy was very, very impressive in what were encouraging conditions.

"It is different in New Zealand. The ball doesn't tend to spin so much, but there may be more assistance out of footmarks as well.

"[Sodhi's] ability to turn the ball both ways, especially if he plays at Mt Maunganui under lights - if you ask most cricketers, they'll say it's definitely harder to read the legspinner under lights than the finger spinner.

"That's one of the factors that was in the consideration."