The Black Caps bowlers have handed coach Gary Stead another selection dilemma – but this time, it's one he's happy to have.
The impending return of Neil Wagner and the impressive test debut of Kyle Jamieson has left Stead with four seamers all worthy of a spot in the side for the second test against India at Hagley Oval – a far cry from the recent tour of Australia where injuries left the Black Caps cobbling together several makeshift attacks.
Now, with Trent Boult back fit and firing, Tim Southee back to his best after being controversially left out of the SCG test, Wagner returning to the squad after the birth of his daughter, and Jamieson making an excellent fist of his first test, Stead has to contemplate whether there's room in the XI come Saturday for four frontline seamers.
It's the only selection debate in an otherwise settled lineup, and it's one that Stead is pleased to have to ponder.
"That's a good selection dilemma to have. Neil Wagner will come back and he's been a force in our team for a long time, and obviously Kyle Jamieson made the most of his debut - I thought the way he played was outstanding."
Despite his four first-innings wickets and impressive batting cameo, Jamieson would almost certainly be the seamer to miss out if the Black Caps opted to retain Ajaz Patel as a spin option. Patel only bowled six overs in the first test victory at the Basin Reserve, but Stead argued he would have been utilised more had the test been closer.
"If the test went the full distance or even deep into the fourth day, you'd have thought Ajaz would have taken a much bigger part than what he did. It wasn't to be because our seam bowlers were so good in this test match, and that's a really pleasing thing.
"I can't speak highly enough of the bowling unit. Taking 20 wickets on a wicket that had a little bit in it the whole time – I think it's one of our most accurate performances that I've seen with the ball."
Patel played in the last test held at Hagley, against Sri Lanka in 2018, where he was unused in the first innings then bowled 12 wicketless overs in the second, while Sri Lanka's spinners returned the figures of 2-207 from 62 overs.
With the conditions usually being unfavourable to spin in Christchurch, that provides a - perhaps likely – option of utilising four seamers along with Colin de Grandhomme, and forgoing spin entirely, but Stead won't make a call until a close examination of the wicket shortly before the test.
"Generally the wicket we play on at Hagley has a wee bit in it – we've seen in the past guys like Colin de Grandhomme can be very useful in those conditions. Whoever we go with, we know we need to put in a performance like we did in this game, because India will get better," Stead said.
"I'd expect they'll come out and put a little bit more pressure on our bowlers – that in itself is good, as it might provide more opportunities. If we can be accurate and as clinical as we were in this first game, then I think we're in for a cracking test because India, whether they lost the game or not, are still a fantastic cricket side."
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission