New Zealand sweat on McCullum's fitness

Published: Wednesday, June 4, 2008, 19:40 [IST]
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New Zealand could be forced into making a late change to their wicket-keeper with Brendon McCullum's fitness a concern on the eve of the third and final Test against England.

The Black Caps, 1-0 down in the series heading into the Trent Bridge climax starting here Thursday, already have form and fitness doubts over top order batsmen James Marshall and Daniel Flynn.

Hard-hitting No 5 McCullum is one of the most dynamic batsmen in world cricket and made a run-a-ball 97 in the drawn first Test at Lord's.

New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori expects him to be fit to bat in Nottingham.

But Vettori told reporters at Trent Bridge here Wednesday he was unsure if McCullum, also a fine gloveman, would be able to keep after sustaining a back injury heading into last week's drawn tour match with Northamptonshire.

New Zealand do have a reserve keeper on tour in Gareth Hopkins but his inclusion would have a knock-on effect on the composition of the team.

Hopkins did play as a wicket-keeper against Northamptonshire with vice-captain McCullum, leading the side in place of the rested Vettori, appearing as a batsman only.

"Brendon is still troubled by his back," said Vettori. He's not in doubt to bat but possibility he might not be able to keep.

"If Brendon can't keep, Gareth Hopkins is our stand-in keeper."

New Zealand middle-order batsman Flynn lost two teeth after being hit by a James Anderson bouncer during England's six-wicket win in the second Test at Old Trafford forced the grille of his helmet into his face.

However, Flynn has since returned to the fray and although he only managed six and two against Northamptonshire, Vettori said he still had a chance of playing at Trent Bridge.

"Flynn is a contender. Whilst he didn't get the runs he wanted to, he wanted to get back out there."

New Zealand dominated the early stages at Old Trafford and had a first innings lead of 179.

But a second innings collapse saw them bowled out for just 114 and although England's victory target of 294 was an Old Trafford Test record, the hosts got the runs they needed with more than a day to spare in a six-wicket victory.

"Probably complacency was the biggest factor," Vettori said.

"We were 270 in front, thought that would be enough and just wanted to get out there and bowl to them and hopefully I would take over and take the wickets," Vettori, one of the world's leading left-arm spinners, explained.

"Unfortunately it just didn't play out like that."

New Zealand have developed something of a reputation for falling away in the third innings of a Test.

"We need to win a game against a good team. Until we do we will always be tarred with that brush."

Swing-bowling is expected to play a central role at Trent Bridge and in pacemen Chris Martin and Kyle Mills, New Zealand have bowlers who've troubled England before with their movement

Teenage quick Tim Southee, who missed the Old Trafford match through illness, could now return in place of Iain O'Brien.

Meanwhile Vettori said none of his bowlers at Trent Bridge would be wearing trousers developed by New Zealand sportswear manufacturer Canterbury to put shine on the ball.

"Everyone's got their own individual sponsors. It seems unlikely but if these guys have put so much effort in, there must be something in it."

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