Canterbury coach Gary Stead believes legspinner Todd Astle must be in contention for New Zealand’s Twenty20 World Cup squad.
Astle was effective in the T20 competition before Christmas and has carried his pleasing form through to the one-day campaign.
He has been in stellar touch with both bat and ball for unbeaten Canterbury, who sit top of the table at the midway point of the 50-over competition.
The 29-year-old, who played a solitary test for New Zealand against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 2012, has taken eight wickets at 9.87, with an impressive economy rate of 3.29 per over.
In the T20 Super Smash, Astle was one of the most miserly bowlers in the middle stages of the innings, conceding 6.48 runs an over, while taking seven wickets.
Batting at the No 5 spot, Astle has produced some pivotal knocks in the one-day competition. He hit 59 against Otago on Wednesday, after coming to the wicket when Canterbury were 8-3 in the seventh over.
In their opening match against Central in Napier, he scored an unbeaten 41 and combined for a match-winning 109-run unbroken partnership with Ronnie Hira.
Spinners are expected to play an important role on the turning wickets in India at the T20 World Cup, which begins on March 8.
Stead felt Astle must be knocking on the door for a place in the team. His batting ability might count in his favour when the squad is being discussed.
“I’m sure the New Zealand selectors are looking very closely at him. He’s competing with [fellow legspinner] Ish Sodhi, I would imagine.
“Todd Astle is bowling beautifully in all three forms of the game. He’s been very, very consistent for us and he’s taken wickets.”
Canterbury have been bolstered for their next match against Auckland at Eden Park’s Outer Oval on Saturday.
Black Caps batsmen Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls rejoin the team after not being required for New Zealand’s T20 matches against Sri Lanka.
Stead said Latham would definitely open, while Nicholls will likely bat at four, if opener Leo Carter retains his place in the 11.
“It’s great to have them back they always add to our team and the team spirit as well. It’s nice to welcome them back.”
Seamer Hamish Bennett has been ruled out with a “side twinge” sustained during the 47-run win over Otago on Wednesday.
He could miss a couple of matches with the injury, which is likely to create an opportunity for paceman Kyle Jamieson, who has been 12th man in Canterbury’s earlier matches.
Opener Michael Davidson drops out of the squad after scoring just 36 runs in his first three List A innings.
Canterbury’s bowlers have been crucial in their unbeaten start to the competition, bowling out their opponents for 167, 163 and 210 in their three completed fixtures.
Left-arm quick Ed Nuttall has made inroads into the opposition top order in every match and is the joint top wicket taker with 10 scalps at 11.60.
Stead said Canterbury were determined to keep up their strong play and lock in first place for the top four finals, which would see them host elimination matches.
“We’re in a position where we can keep controlling our own destiny. It’s something we identified early on that it was going to be important to start well.”
The weather could have the ultimate say in Auckland with heavy rain battering the city on Friday.
AT A GLANCE:
Canterbury: Andrew Ellis (c), Leo Carter, Tom Latham, Peter Fulton, Henry Nicholls, Todd Astle, Ronnie Hira, Cameron Fletcher, Cole McConchie, Logan van Beek, Ed Nuttall, Kyle Jamieson.
Auckland: Michael Bates (c), Brad Cachopa, Mark Chapman, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, James Fuller, Donovan Grobbelaar, Michael Guptill-Bunce, Shawn Hicks, Tarun Nethula, Robbie O’Donnell, Jeet Raval.
Points after four rounds: Canterbury 15, Auckland 12, Central 11, Wellington 6, Northern 5, Otago 2.