Pakistan v NZ Men's - Tests

Ex Blues spinner picked for NZ

Will Somerville earns first Test call-up for New Zealand's tour of the UAE to play Pakistan

Sam Ferris

9 November 2018, 09:33 AM AEST

Five months after making the tough decision to leave NSW and head home to New Zealand to chase higher honours, off-spinner Will Somerville is one step closer to achieving his dream.

Somerville has been called into the Black Caps squad for their Test series in the UAE against Pakistan following leg-spinner Todd Astle's withdrawal due to a knee injury. 

The 34-year-old will fly to the Emirates on Saturday is now a strong chance of playing in the first Test at Abu Dhabi starting in a week's time.

Somerville made his first-class debut for Otago in 2005 but spent the past four seasons in Australia playing a dozen Sheffield Shield matches for the Blues, often as the second spinner behind Stephen O'Keefe and Nathan Lyon.

In 2016-17, the tall off-spinner claimed 35 wickets in seven matches to be the Blues' leading wicket-taker that summer.

But despite that prolific season, Lyon and O'Keefe remain the first-choice spinners at Moore Park and opportunities became scarce, meaning Somerville played just one Shield match last year.

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With a desire to represent New Zealand at the highest level, Somerville opted to head home this June and play with the Auckland Aces to push his claims for a national call-up.

It wasn’t any easy choice, but one that has paid off handsomely.

"It has been a tough decision, but one I hope will be best for me personally and of course my family," Somerville said in June about his return to New Zealand.

"Everyone in the Blues has been great to me as a cricketer and more importantly as a colleague and friend. I shall miss them, but leave with very fond memories.

"It has been a life-changing few years for me."

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In two Plunket Shield matches this summer, Somerville has claimed seven wickets at 25 and scored a maiden 50-over half-century on Wednesday in Wellington.

National selector Gavin Larsen said Somerville's skill-set complements the Black Caps spin attack.

"He bowls with good control and variation, while his added height means he gets that extra bit of bounce," Larsen said.

"He’s also a handy batsman down the order, as he showed with his half-century in the most recent round of the Ford Trophy (New Zealand's domestic one-day competition).

"The Test squad already has a leg-spinner in Ish Sodhi and a left-arm spinner in Ajaz Patel, so we think Will’s right arm off-spin will balance out the attack nicely."

New Zealand play two more ODIs on November 9 and 11 before three Tests, starting in Abu Dhabi on November 16.