New Zealand still waiting on Southee

Published: Thursday, May 22, 2008, 19:34 [IST]
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New Zealand are waiting on the fitness of teenage pace bowler Tim Southee before naming their side to play England in the second Test here at Old Trafford starting Friday.

Southee, who had 'flu during the drawn first Test of this three-match series at Lord's, has suffered with illness and only returned to training Thursday.

If he is ruled out New Zealand could opt for a like-for-like replacement in Iain O'Brien, in their squad of 12 at Lord's before being omitted.

Alternatively, on a pitch renowned for taking turn, they could bring in Jeetan Patel as a second spinner alongside captain Daniel Vettori, man-of-the-match at Lord's with a five-wicket haul.

Another consideration is that in opening batsman Aaron Redmond, who made his Test debut at Lord's, New Zealand have a player who began his first-class career as a leg-spinner.

Vettori, reflecting on Southee's fitness, told a news conference here Thursday: "He hasn't trained the last couple of days.

"He's been down with a virus but he seems to be ready to go today.

"We'll sit back and see how he goes and how he comes through it then we will make a decision on our final XI, probably tonight.

"I think Jeetan or Iain O'Brien are the two likely candidates. Iain was in our squad of 12 for the Lord's Test but the nature of the wicket here may bring Jeetan into play as well."

He added: "There's been a little bit of talk about taking two spinners into the Test match but I haven't had a chance to look at the wicket, it was under the covers yesterday (Wednesday)."

Vettori said he'd paid attention to comments made by opposing left-arm spinner Monty Panesar that Old Trafford, where the England bowler has taken 18 wickets in two Tests, was one of his favourite pitches.

"I've seen Monty quoted a few times as saying this is one of his favourite grounds to bowl in.

"Jeetan and I are similar bowlers, one's a right-hander and one's a left-hander but if he (Panesar) is coming out and saying it's a good dig to bowl at you sit up, take notice and have a look at it."

Old Trafford has a reputation as a bouncy pitch and Vettori admitted the conditions would be challenging for his largely inexperienced top order.

But he said the team had been working hard with batting coach Mark O'Neill.

During the 1980s O'Neill, the son of Australia batsman Norman, played for Western Australia whose Perth home ground was then renowned for having one of the world's quickest pitches.

"We don't come across too many fast, bouncy wickets in New Zealand and you probably don't around the world these days," said Vettori. "Even Perth has probably lost a little bit of its reputation.

"A lot of the guys are working hard with Mark and, because he's from Perth, he has the added advantage of knowledge of those sorts of conditions.

"But sometimes bowlers get carried away with the extra pace and bounce and it's almost them who have to adapt more than the batsmen.

"You can get excited but the same lengths on a bouncy wicket are generally the same lengths on what we played on at Lord's so we don't to change too much," Vettori explained.

England, earlier Thursday, named an unchanged team.

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