MItchell Santner finally enjoys home advantage

Publish Date
Wednesday, 7 February 2024, 10:16AM

By Kris Shannon

After being hailed by his coach as the country’s best spinner, Mitchell Santner is in the middle of his best two-test run.

Yet such is the life of a spinner in this country, Santner knows he has no guarantees about when his next will come.

The 32-year-old returned 3-34 for the Black Caps on day three against South Africa at Bay Oval, his top innings figures following a new match-high haul of 6-116 in victory over Bangladesh in December.

Those efforts have reinvigorated his red-ball career following a three-year period in which he played one test, parlaying a standout ODI World Cup on the turning tracks of India.

The lack of such surfaces at home has long frustrated the left-armer — along with every other spin exponent in New Zealand — but he found some assistance in Mount Maunganui and bowled with a level of precision that made him almost unplayable.

“I’m not used to that at all,” Santner said of the favourable home conditions. “Usually first innings here when it’s flat you’re trying to do a role — it might be fast on a length and let the boys at the other end do their thing.

“But it’s nice to see it turn a little bit, when you can play around with position on the crease, the seam, changes of pace.”

Those variations saw the overmatched Proteas dismissed for 162 on Tuesday, before Kane Williamson collected his second century of the match to establish a 528-run lead.

Santner will now be needed to finish off the tourists, having regained the allrounder’s spot with the support of coach Gary Stead, who upon naming his squad for this series labelled him the best spinner in New Zealand.

“It’s obviously nice to hear,” Santner said. “Just off recent performances in white-ball cricket, it feels like the ball’s been coming out pretty well.

“The World Cup was nice with spinning wickets — we don’t tend to get that too often in New Zealand, which is annoying.”

Santner hoped for more help in the second test at Seddon Park — or, as he joked, “it could be six seamers” — but a couple of factors might preclude his involvement in the blockbuster two-match series to follow against Australia.

As he acknowledged, those tests will be hosted on traditionally bouncy and seam-friendly wickets at the Basin Reserve and Hagley Oval. And as Rachin Ravindra and Glenn Phillips have recently shown, they can ably fill a spinning role while adding more with the bat.

Regardless, Santner won’t wait long for a consistent run in the test team, eyeing six subcontinental matches this year against Afghanistan (one), Sri Lanka (two) and India (three), the final series returning him to the site of a key adjustment.

“I felt I was getting a bit too quick at the crease and getting a bit long,” Santner said. “But I’ve gone the other way now and trying to give it a rip again, be a little bit slower to the crease and try to get my momentum from the crease.

“That’s what I tried to do at the World Cup and it’s flowed into my red-ball bowling.”

The benefits of that approach have been apparent in this test and, with Santner expecting a fourth day of toil, his nous will be necessary.

“It’s going to be very flat and we’re just going to have to bash away for a long period,” he said. “It usually slows down a lot and it’s a grind to get your wickets. Hopefully the big boys can knock a couple off the top and we’ll come in after.”

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

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