Wellington: New Zealand have named BJ Watling in their 12-man squad for the two-Test series against England but Mitchell Santner has been ruled out due to a serious knee injury and will undergo surgery.
Watling missed the Test series against West Indies last December due to a hip problem, with Tom Blundell, his replacement behind the stumps, scoring a century on debut in Wellington. But the 32-year-old keeper-batsman, who averages 38.05 with the bat from 52 Test matches with six centuries, has since proved his fitness playing domestic cricket for Northern Districts.
The loss of Santner is a major blow after the spin-bowling all-rounder starred in the recent ODI series against England. In his absence the Black Caps have turned to 31-year-old leg-spinner Todd Astle, who played the last of his two Test matches against Pakistan in 2016.
The series begins on 22 March in Auckland, with Eden Park hosting New Zealand's first ever day/night Test match. The second Test will be played at Hagley Oval in Christchurch, starting on 30 March.
New Zealand squad for first Test: Kane Williamson (c), Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Tim Southee, Neil Wagner
The Black Caps will be targeting a first Test series win over England since 1999. The last time the two sides met on New Zealand soil in 2013 the three-Test series finished 0-0, with Matt Prior and Monty Panesar rescuing a draw for the visitors in the final match at Eden Park.
The rest of the squad is as expected with Jeet Ravel opening alongside Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls taking the No. 5 spot. Taylor had initially been pencilled in for the second two-day game against England at Seddon Park, but after the one-day series Hesson said he would not be risked ahead of the Test series.