Cape Town - The third pace bowling spot is the head-scratcher for New Zealand
captain Brendon McCullum who otherwise offered some broad hints on his
lineup to face South Africa in Wednesday's first cricket Test.
According to the stuff.co.nz website, with Trent Boult and probably Doug Bracewell assured of spots in the
injured Tim Southee's absence, it will leave either veteran Chris
Martin or left-armer Neil Wagner as the unlucky one when the coin flips
Martin is expected to have the inside running, meaning
Wagner, spinner Bruce Martin and late callups Mitchell McClenaghan and
Colin Munro would be the ones to miss out from the 15-man squad.
"There's probably still one contentious spot and we need to make
sure we do a pretty good assessment of the wicket then finalise that
last place. The balance is reasonably set, we've got to make sure we
select that person for the last (bowling) role," McCullum said after
today's drawn warmup match in Paarl.
The top-seven is carved in stone, with McCullum partnering Martin
Guptill at the top, followed by Kane Williamson, Dean Brownlie, Daniel
Flynn, wicketkeeper BJ Watling and all-rounder James Franklin. Jeetan
Patel looks likely to be the solitary spinner.
Watling will keep wicket for the first time since the Zimbabwe Test
in January, after which he suffered an injury which handed Kruger van
Wyk his chance.
McCullum also put to bed rumours he may reclaim the gloves and drop down the order.
"Absolutely not. That career has passed me, unfortunately, so it's
BJ's opportunity and he kept really well in the warmup game on a tough
surface. He's earned his chance, he banged down the door with his
performances in the shorter version and he was the incumbent prior to
Recalled opener Peter Fulton's tour-ending knee injury ensured
McCullum would remain at the top of the order against the might of South
African quicks Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
"I'll open the batting and Dean will come in at four and we'll keep
Daniel Flynn at five. That's a pretty good top five and hopefully we can
find some ways to put some partnerships together and put some pressure
back on South Africa."
Brownlie scored just six on Sunday after being laid low by a stomach
bug, but he'd spent time in the field and in the nets and was declared
100 percent fit for his Test recall.
McCullum said the docile Paarl pitch was completely different to the expected bouncy surface at Newlands.
After trailing by 48 on the first innings against a South African
Invitation XI, New Zealand were 117-2 when stumps were pulled early,
with Guptill 68 not out. The three days still served a purpose, McCullum
said, as others got through some solid net sessions.
"The bowlers got through some tough toil and ticked off some bowling
loads and bowled reasonably well at times and most of the batters faced
in excess of 60-70 balls so it was as good as we could hope for."