Canterbury legspinner Todd Astle is poised to play for the Black Caps for the first time in three years against Pakistan.
Recalled Black Cap Todd Astle reckons he’s bowling with career-best form.
The Canterbury leg spinner looks set to end a three year hiatus from international cricket after being selected in New Zealand’s Twenty20 squad for their three-match series against Pakistan, starting in Auckland on Friday.
Astle made his lone test appearance against Sri Lanka in Colombo in November 2012, but after taking match figures of 1-97 in the win, was not re-selected.
Since then, the 29-year-old has gone away and added a yard of pace to his bowling, which has resulted in a raft of domestic wickets across all forms over the past two summers.
He has been in stellar form for leaders Canterbury in the one-day competition, sitting second equal on the wicket-taking chart with 11 at 11.18, and an economy rate of only 3.61.
During the past two Plunket Shield four-day campaigns, Astle has been the second leading wicket-taker in both seasons with 37 and 44 respectively.
Astle was one of the most economical bowlers in the middle stage of the innings in the T20 Super Smash, capturing seven wickets, while going for just 6.48 runs an over.
“It’s probably the best it’s coming out. It’s nice to be given a call-up when things are going really well,” he said.
“I’d say it’s the best I’ve bowled consistently across all three formats. Last year, I had a good year, as well.”
Several seasons back, Astle was viewed chiefly as a four-day specialist. His increased speed gives the batsmen less time to react and has helped him gain selection for Canterbury in all three forms.
With New Zealand’s 15-man squad for March’s Twenty20 World Cup named next month, Astle has a huge opportunity to press his selection claims with the Pakistan series.
Black Caps coach Mike Hesson has hinted at least three spinners will feature in the World Cup squad.
Spin is likely to prove vital on the turning wickets in India during the tournament.
Mitchell Santner’s all-round ability should see make him the cut, meaning Astle is probably in direct competition with fellow leg spinner Ish Sodhi, who will return to play for Northern Districts during the Pakistan series.
Experienced offspinner Nathan McCullum, who is retiring at the end of the summer, is recovering from a knee injury, but hopes to turn out for Otago on Sunday.
Astle started out his domestic career as an opening batsman and has produced some pivotal middle innings knocks for Canterbury this season.
His batting prowess could count in his favour when the selectors are deliberating over the last few spots in the World Cup squad.
Astle said he never gave up on his dream of breaking into the New Zealand squad again.
“You don’t worry too much what other guys are doing. I’ve got quite a good relationship with those other spinner guys. It’s quite a unique art, any type of spin, especially, leg spin.
“All I’ve been trying to be is consistent and have that control with the ball.”
He was excited about the possibility of playing for New Zealand for the first time at home. There will be pressure on him as he looks to make an impression, but he was focused on doing what had got him into the team.
“I think naturally you’re going to be nervous and I think that’s a good thing. As the game gets closer, you have to try and keep things in check and just remember all the things you’ve done to get to this point.”
Astle was familiar with some of the Pakistan batsmen after captaining the New Zealand President’s 11 to victories against them in one-dayers last summer before the World Cup.
He will play for Canterbury in their one-day match against Auckland in Christchurch on Wednesday and link up with his New Zealand team-mates on Thursday.
Black CapsTwenty20 squad v Pakistan
Kane Williamson (c), Corey Anderson, Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham (first game only), Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Colin Munro, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Ross Taylor (will miss the first game).
Last updated 13:59, January 11 2016