Cricket: Blackcaps coach Gary Stead concedes selection error in opening test loss to Australia

Blackcaps coach Gary Stead has conceded leaving Mitchell Santner out of the playing XI for last week's test defeat to Australia was an error.  

As New Zealand named four specialist seam bowlers for the series opener at the Basin Reserve, Australia made a mockery of the green pitch on offer through spinner Nathan Lyon.  

With figures of 4/43 in the first innings, and 6/65 in the second, Lyon became the first spinner to take a 10-wicket match haul in New Zealand since 2006, as the Blackcaps were beaten by 172 runs late on day four.

Nathan Lyon made a mockery of New Zealand's selection.
Nathan Lyon made a mockery of New Zealand's selection. Photo credit: Getty Images

And while the Blackcaps backed the four-pronged pace attack that's brought success since the inaugural World Test Championship victory in 2021, it was the part-time spin of Glenn Phillips that yielded the best results.  

Worryingly, though, selecting four seamers backfired on the Blackcaps for the second test in a row.  

In Hamilton against South Africa, conditions saw the Blackcaps stick to their tried and tested, while the Proteas picked two spinners in Dane Piedt and Shaun von Berg, to go alongside part-timer Neil Brand.  

And while the Blackcaps' quality - notably Kane Williamson - got New Zealand out of a hole to seal a 2-0 series win on that occasion, Australia offered no such chance.  

That strategy could change for the second test at Christchurch's Hagley Oval, after Will O'Rourke was ruled out.  

Wellington's Ben Sears has been called in as a replacement, but conditions will dictate the make-up of the XI.  

Speaking on Monday, though, Stead admitted his error in leaving Santner out of the reckoning, as Lyon tormented New Zealand.   

"If we knew it was going to spin - not so much the spin, more so the bounce - Santner would have played," he said. "We got that wrong.


Glenn Phillips took 5/45 as the highlight of New Zealand's bowling effort.
Glenn Phillips took 5/45 as the highlight of New Zealand's bowling effort. Photo credit: Getty Images

"We'll put our hand up around that as well. It's not what we expected, and not what we've seen from the Basin Reserve as well.  

However, Stead's error does not take away from what Phillips was able to do with the ball.  

Since his test debut in early 2020 as a specialist batter, the 27-year-old has left no stone unturned in his quest to break back into the XI for his bowling.  

And after coming back into the reckoning away in Bangladesh late last year, Phillips has been arguably the Blackcaps' most consistent bowler.  

In the five matches since his return, Phillips has taken 16 wickets at an average of 16, with his 5/45 in Australia's second innings in Wellington being his best return in any form of professional cricket.  

That comes alongside his batting, where Phillips averages a handy 38.66, including a vital 71 off just 70 balls in New Zealand's first-innings collapse at the Basin Reserve.  

Speaking after day three, Lyon labelled Phillips "New Zealand's Marnus Labuschagne", as a compliment, given the Australian No.3's renowned love for the game to the point of annoyance.  

And in Stead's eyes, Phillips' perceived lack of ability is more than made up for by his desire to improve. 

"Glenn Phillips is certainly a developing spinner," he added. "I guess it's what you guys write about, and whether you see him as part-time or not.

"But the way he trains, he's certainly a full-time spinner in our eyes.  

"He's very early in his career still. [I'm] looking forward to seeing how he keeps developing.  

"He has a thirst for knowledge and wants to keep learning to get better."