Guptill dropped from New Zealand squad for Pakistan tests

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) Struggling opening batsman Martin Guptill is among five players to be dropped from the New Zealand cricket team for the two-test home series against Pakistan beginning at Christchurch next week.

Guptill was among the batsmen who under-performed on the recent tour to India, where it was white-washed in a three-test series. He had scores of 21, 0, 13, 24, 72 and 29 – a total of 159 runs at an average of 26 – in tests that were won by India by 197, 178 and 321 runs.

Spinners Ish Sodhi and Jeetan Patel, fast bowler Doug Bracewell and wicketkeeper-batsman Luke Ronchi were also omitted from the 13-man squad named on Thursday.

In their place, Auckland batsmen Jeet Raval and Colin de Grandhomme are in line to make test debuts in the first test at Christchurch's Lincoln Oval on Nov. 17, while all-rounder Todd Astle has been recalled to the test squad for the first time since 2012.

Raval will likely open the batting in Guptill's absence, while Astle provides a spin bowling option in the absence of allrounder Mitchell Santner who will miss the two test matches with a broken wrist.

Astle played his only test against Sri Lanka in 2012 but also appeared in two Twenty20 internationals against Pakistan last year.

''Todd's been incredibly consistent at the domestic level, having been one of the top four wicket-takers in the Plunket Shield (domestic first class competition) for the past threes seasons,'' selector Gavin Larsen said.

''His bowling has continued to improve and he's also shown impressive form with the bat, so Todd provides a similar skill set to Mitchell Santner in his absence.''

De Grandhomme, who also provides all-round cover, has played one one-day international and four Twenty20 matches for New Zealand but has yet to play a test.

''Since Colin returned from injury last season, he's made a number of key contributions with bat and ball,'' Larsen said. ''He's made an impressive start to the current Plunket Shield season and he provides us with another strong allrounder option.''

''There were a number of tough calls and when naming a squad of 13 it's a challenge to make sure we get the balance right. Jeet (Raval) has been in the picture for a while now and he benefited from spending time in the environment during the tour of Africa.''

The second test begins at Hamilton on Nov. 25.

New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (captain), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Jimmy Neesham, Jeet Raval, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, B.J. Watling.