Santner facing lengthy absence
New Zealand's left-arm all-rounder Mitchell Santner could be out of action for as long as nine months due to a knee injury.
New Zealand Cricket confirmed Santner would undergo surgery this week on a bone defect in his right knee and will miss the upcoming two-Test series against England, as well as the Indian Premier League season.
The left-armer's all-round contribution was one of the Black Caps' highlights in their 3-2 defeat in the ODI series against England.
Coach Mike Hesson said all the squad and coaches felt for Santner, whose knee has been troubling him for several weeks.
"Mitchell is a key player in all three formats for us, so we'll certainly miss him in the upcoming series," added Hesson. "It's important though that he gets this fixed and we have him back for what is a big next 18 months for us."
It's possible Santner could be fit again in six months, but that would be during a period of inactivity for the Black Caps who, after taking on England, don't play another Test until November when they meet Pakistan.
His withdrawal from the squad means a place for Todd Astle, who played the last of his two Tests in 2016. He got the nod ahead of fellow leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, who was in the team during the ODI series.
The only other change to the side that won the Test series 2-0 against West Indies in December is the return of wicketkeeper BJ Watling.
Selector Gavin Larsen said of Watling: "BJ is a proven performer at Test level for us and brings a lot to the group both on and off the field.
"We've monitored BJ's progress over the past few months and it's great to see him back with the gloves for Northern Districts. Tom Blundell did a great job in BJ's absence and we'll keep working with him going forward."
New Zealand are 9/4 to win the first Test against England, who are 7/5, with the draw 2/1.
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