New Zealand’s top-six looks set in stone for the England cricket tests but two nagging questions leap out. Cricket fans who want to watch the live-action of England Vs New Zealand series can get England Vs South Africa Tickets from our most trusted and economical online ticketing platform.
Can the Black Caps skipper and key batsman Kane Williamson challenge a niggly hip injury to play all five tests against England and Australia in the next two months, and who replaces him if he can’t?
There appears some doubt over question one. Coach Gary Stead sounded more hopeful than bullish about his skipper’s fitness as he and co-selector Gavin Larsen prepare to name their squad on Friday for next Thursday’s first test at Mount Maunganui.
“I hope so. You never know, injuries can happen. We just have to manage him well and make sure his stretching regimes and all those things are going to plan,” Stead said Stuff.
Interviewed during in Napier on Friday, Williamson described his hip injury as an ongoing niggle, which restricted him to solitary innings this season: 26 in 56 minutes for Northern Districts against Canterbury last month.
It comes and goes. It is settling, which is nice. A lot of the previous few months has been rehab to get the hip right,he said.
Having skipped the five-match Twenty20 series as a safety, Williamson goes in the cold for five hard tests in just under seven weeks – two against England then three in Australia.
Interestingly, Stead told the longer Williamson bats, the less the injury bothers him. It seems diving or running in the field is the biggest concern as New Zealand hope to avoid the major setback of starting a test without their best player.
It is not usually batting that aggravates it. Confidently he bats for a long time and scores a lot of runs, Stead said.
“He is been with us the last couple of games and had a number of red ball trainings with us as well, getting back into the rhythm of playing. I am practically confident he’ll be OK come the first test.”
It brings Otago batsman Hamish Rutherford into the frame for potentially his first test in closely five years, as the important backup option.
Regular backup Will Young, still awaiting his test debut, remains sidelined until at least next month’s Twenty20 Super Smash after undergoing shoulder surgery.
Another leading top-order contender, Wellington’s South African run machine Devon Conway, does not qualify for New Zealand selection until September.
That leaves Rutherford who will open for New Zealand A in Friday’s three-day tour match against England in Whangarei. Now 30, Rutherford scored a memorable 171 on debut against England in 2013 but played the last of his 16 tests in January 2015.
Rutherford scored 535 runs at 41 in previous season’s Plunket Shield, then averaged 44 in four County Championship matches for Worcestershire. This season Rutherford has not got into gear with scores of 22, 21 and 7 for Otago.
There is a glaring absence of quality young batsmen making big runs in first-class cricket, a worry for the selectors trying to formulate backup plans.
Even the form of the officials in the first three rounds of Plunket Shield gave cause for concern, notably opener Jeet Raval.
The left-hander who averages 34.64 from 20 tests – and will partner Tom Latham at the topmost – scored 37 runs in three innings in the 1-1 series draw with Sri Lanka.
Raval and Rutherford both missed out on much-needed innings when University Oval is poor drainage saw the Otago-Auckland game abandoned without a ball bowled.
A side from Latham’s 224 against Wellington, and Henry Nicholls’ 103 against Northern Districts it was slop pickings for the Black Caps batsmen, none of whom play for NZA this weekend while England’s test side gets back-to-back warmup matches at Cobham Oval.
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