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Kiwis eye four quicks for Dunedin Test

New Zealand are eyeing a four-prong pace attack for the first Test against Sri Lanka with rookie Mitchell Santner assuming the spinning duties.

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The opening clash, at Dunedin’s University Oval, starts on Thursday, and skipper Brendon McCullum says the pitch looked like it will have pace and seam movement early on. He will likely bowl first if he wins the toss.

The hosts have bracketed Neil Wagner and Mark Craig in their playing XI and will decide before the toss who will play.

“Obviously the hot Dunedin sun may be able to alter the grass which is on the wicket at the moment, but it looks good,” McCullum said.

However, they had to be wary about picking a side for the full five days, rather than the first one. If the pitch looked like it had dried out on Thursday morning, they may select offpsinner Mark Craig.

McCullum said Otago left-armer Wagner was bowling the best he has seen him recently, and would carry a workhorse role if picked.

He would probably bowl those long spells from one end, to allow McCullum to rotate Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Doug Bracewell from the other.

McCullum confirmed 23-year-old rookie Santner would bat at six, where he made his Test debut against Australia at Adelaide – top scoring with 45 in the second innings.

He also took a wicket in each innings with his slow left-armers.

McCullum was effusive about Santner’s future in the side.

“He’s an incredibly unflappable character for such a young guy. He’s really fitted in to this team quickly and I am sure over the next couple of years we are going to see a guy develop into a world-class allrounder.”

New Zealand are favourites to win over an inexperienced Sri Lanka side which has lost both veterans Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene to retirement, and also fast bowler Dhammika Prasad to injury and Kusal Perera to a failed drugs test.

In contrast, McCullum was upbeat about his side’s recent performances, despite losing 2-0 to Australia last month.

“We’ve still got to put the Ws in the column but from a gradual improvement point of view, I think it sets us up nicely for what is a pretty eye-watering summer Test series for us.”

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