Wellington [New Zealand], January 26: Star batter Rachin Ravindra is all set to feature in his maiden Test at home since 2022 after New Zealand Cricket included his name in Balckcap's Test squad against South Africa. The left-handed batter, recently crowned 'Emerging Player of the Year' at the ICC awards, has been named in the BLACKCAPS squad for the two-match Test series against the Proteas, starting next week at Tauranga's Bay Oval. ICC Awards 2023 Winners List: Check Full List of Players Who Won Cricket’s Annual Awards.

The two-Test series between South Africa and New Zealand will take place from February 4 onwards till February 17, with two games set to be played in Mount Maunganui and Hamilton. Having been brought into the line-up for Henry Nicholls, Ravindra is set to bat in the middle order for the first time in his Test career, with Will Young providing batting cover.

Meanwhile, New Zealand also included top-ranked Test batter Kane Williamson in their squad while experienced quick Tim Southee will captain Kiwis during the series. A squad of 13 will assemble for each Test, with pace bowler Will O'Rourke joining the squad for the second match at Hamilton's Seddon Park, and one player coming out of the squad from Tauranga.

Allrounder Mitch Santner also retains his place in the squad following on from strong contributions with ball and bat in Bangladesh. Ajaz Patel and Ish Sodhi are the other members of the Bangladesh touring squad not included, with the selection group seeking a different balance for the conditions expected. This bilateral series became a huge talking point because South Africa is sending a second-string side, consisting of seven uncapped players, including the skipper Neil Brand. Here’s the Heartwarming On-Field Gesture Which Won Zimbabwe the ICC Spirit of Cricket Award 2023 (Watch Video).

New Zealand coach Gary Stead is looking forward to the series against South Africa, anticipating the Proteas to pose a hard challenge to his team. "It's an honour to be involved in any Test match and I know the players are looking forward to the start of a big Test summer - in what is a big year of Test cricket home and away. The Proteas are a highly competitive team across formats and, having never won a Test series against them home or away, we expect two stern challenges," Stead said.

He said it was exciting to have such a range of experience and options in the group. "Will O'Rourke has impressed us in stepping up from domestic cricket to New Zealand A and then international level. Rachin Ravindra is another player who has really impressed us with his contributions to the team over the past 12 months in international cricket. We've been particularly pleased with his ability to adapt and learn in different roles," he said.

Stead admitted it was difficult to leave out players like Nicholls, Patel, and Sodhi, but he is pleased with the squad's balance. "All three players have made strong contributions to Test-winning performances over the past 14 months. But we believe we've struck a good balance between experience, and providing opportunities for newer players," Stead noted.

New Zealand squad: Tim Southee, Tom Blundell, Devon Conway, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Will O'Rourke (second Test only), Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitch Santner, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson and Will Young.

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