Aussie fast bowler Dane Hutchinson could be unleashed for Wellington's Plunket Shield opener next month as an injury cloud still hangs over frontliner Mark Gillespie.
Queenslander Hutchinson wasn't offered a Cricket Wellington contract, but was included in the Firebirds' wider training group and is highly rated by coach Jamie Siddons.
Gillespie, the standout New Zealand bowler of the March test series against South Africa, is still hampered by a sprained ankle sustained while running back in June. He suffered extensive bone bruising and ligament damage.
Siddons said Gillespie had a cortisone injection last week and was now bowling off a longer run in the indoor nets.
But time was marching on as Wellington eye their season opener against Central Districts in Napier, starting on October 28.
"I'm happy with the way he's progressing . . . he's getting there but he's still going to take a bit of time," Siddons said. “That first game is still the target but he'll have to have a big October to get up for that. He hasn't done a lot yet."
That leaves a likely pace attack of Andy McKay, Scott Kuggeleijn and either 26-year-old Hutchinson or youngster Tipene Friday.
Hutchinson took 42 wickets for his Norths club in Brisbane last summer and impressed Siddons with his pace. The former Queensland age-group rep has a New Zealand passport and has committed to breaking into the first-class scene.
"If one of our senior players breaks down or falls over then it would be the perfect opportunity for him to jump in there and support McKay or Gillespie.
If one of them goes to the Black Caps, he's a ready made 26-year-old that takes wickets and can swing it both ways and knows where he's putting it. I'm happy that he's coming and he'll definitely get his chances."
Siddons said Kuggeleijn, who made a flying start to his debut first-class season before ending with 28 wickets at 38.50, was ahead of Hutchinson in pecking order, for now.
"Kuggy took 21 wickets last year before Christmas in four-day cricket and he's looking fantastic out there again. Hutchy's got to jump ahead of him somehow."
Firebirds Hutchinson, Gillespie, Kuggeleijn, Friday, Harry Boam, Josh Brodie and Michael Pollard took to Linden Park this week for a coaching clinic with schoolchildren.
It is the seventh year of the New Zealand Cricket Players Association's player visits to try to encourage youngsters from lower decile schools into the sport.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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