Andy McKay's return to Firebirds on hold
Andy McKay's anticipated return to Wellington's ranks is on hold after a suspected re-occurrence of the side strain which has sidelined him since late November.
The fast bowler had been a possible starter for the Firebirds' Plunket Shield clash with Otago, which begins in Dunedin on Thursday.
McKay is scheduled for a scan tomorrow, when the extent of the injury will become clearer.
The news is better for fellow fast bowler Mark Gillespie. He was re-called to the Black Caps in December, only to suffer an abdominal strain on the day his selection was announced.
He won't be ready to play Otago, but Wellington director of cricket Robbie Kerr said there was a distinct possibility Gillespie would be right for the following match against Canterbury, starting on January 31.
That leaves Scott Kuggeleijn, Ili Tugaga, Harry Boam and Tipene Friday as the quick bowlers in Wellington's 12 to meet Otago. Dane Hutchinson, who has been a regular for most of the season, is now on the outer.
Jeetan Patel is unavailable, for personal reasons, leaving Luke Woodcock and Mark Houghton as the two spinners. All three would have played, if Patel had been been available, with Houghton's Twenty20 form demanding he get a decent four-day opportunity, said Kerr.
Houghton took eight wickets in nine matches, at 30.50, with a runs-per-over of 7.39.
"Mark Houghton has just had a magnificent campaign," Kerr said.
"There's often a lot made of left-arm spinners in this competition doing well and I think that's true. I also think one of the reasons behind that is they often bowl some of the so-called easier overs.
"But he has been thrown tremendous responsibility with bowling inside the first six [overs] and at the death as well, so I just can't speak highly enough of the way he's bowled."
Similar could probably be said of Tugaga, whose career seemed to be going nowhere before the injuries to McKay and Gillespie, among other things, saw him roped in for the final give rounds of Twenty20.
"Ili's a tremendous bloke to have in the team when he's firing on all cylinders. He's happy, he's loving his cricket and he's had some good results," said Kerr of Tugaga's six wickets at 17 with an runs per over of just 6.37.
"He can swing the ball and he gets a bit of bounce and he's caused some good players some problems. It'll be a good challenge for him now to try and build on the momentum that he's gained.
"He's had to fight very hard to work his way back into the side and I hope he continues to excel."
Elsewhere, Grant Elliott's international comeback sees Michael Pollard given a chance in the middle order.
HOW THEY LINE UP
Wellington Plunket Shield team to meet Otago: Josh Brodie, Michael Papps, Stephen Murdoch (c), Jesse Ryder, Luke Woodcock, Michael Pollard, Luke Ronchi, Harry Boam, Scott Kuggeleijn, Mark Houghton, Ili Tugaga, Tipene Friday
The Dominion Post