Blackcaps v South Africa: Star allrounder Rachin Ravindra, rookie Will O'Rourke named for Proteas test series

Star allrounder Rachin Ravindra is poised to re-enter test cricket at the cost of veteran batter Henry Nicholls, when the Blackcaps face South Africa in their two-test series next month.

Ravindra, 24, was a breakout star of last year's World Cup one-day tournament and was subsequently named ICC Emerging Player of the Year, but has been played sparingly since, as coach Gary Stead paces the youngster's early international career.

He has already played three tests for his country, with modest returns, but has been identified as the likely replacement for Nicholls, who has finally lost his battle with inconsistent form over recent series.

Rachin Ravindra & Will O'Rourke poised to face South Africa in test series.
Rachin Ravindra & Will O'Rourke poised to face South Africa in test series. Photo credit: Photosport

Over 56 tests, Nicholls has averaged 37.16 with the bat and was named in the 2018 ICC Test Team of the Year, but has returned just 25.00 over his last 20 innings since February 2022, despite an unbeaten 200 against Sri Lanka last summer.

In two tests in Bangladesh last November/December, he totalled 25 runs over four innings.

Nicholls, 32, joins spin-bowlers Ajaz Patel and Ish Sodhi on the casualty list of the latest selection.

"All three players have made strong contributions to test-winning performances over the past 14 months, but we believe we've struck a good balance between experience and providing opportunities for newer players," said Stead.

O'Rourke, 22, has been named for the second test at Hamilton, beginning February 13. He made his Blackcaps one-day debut against Bangladesh, taking a wicket with his final ball on debut and capturing 3/47 in his second outing, including two off consecutive balls in the final over of the innings.

"Will O’Rourke has impressed us in stepping up from domestic cricket to New Zealand A and then international level," said Stead. "Rachin Ravindra is another player who has really impressed us with his contributions to the team over the past 12 months in international cricket.

"We’ve been particularly pleased with his ability to adapt and learn in different roles."

Wicketkeeper Tom Blundell has been doubtful for this series, with a hamstring strain keeping him out of the Super Smash domestic T20 competition over the past month, but he has been named with no specialist back-up.

Master batter Kane Williamson and fast-bowler Kyle Jamieson have also been sidelined with injury, but are also in the mix to face the Proteas.

"They are all at slightly different points in their rehabilitation plans, but we’re confident they’ll be good to go at Bay Oval," said Stead.

Blackcaps test squad against South Africa: Tim Southee (captain), Tom Blundell (wicketkeeper), Devon Conway, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Will O’Rourke, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitch Santner, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson, Will Young