New Zealand Cricket is targeting the coming three-match test series against England as the international return for injured seamer Tim Southee.
Southee injured his thumb fielding for Northern Districts against Wellington in a Plunket Shield clash, at Karori Park in Wellington, on December 19.
Initial estimates were that he would miss six to eight weeks of cricket, but the 24-year-old remains out of the international setup after missing selection for the Black Caps' Twenty20 and one-day teams to play England.
National selection manager Kim Littlejohn said they want to take a conservative approach to Southee's return - but hope that he will be available for the test series, starting on March 6 in Dunedin.
"We're hoping he'll be ready to play in the test series," he said.
"The next couple of weeks in terms of his rehab will tell - but medical reports are he's going really well at the moment."
Southee, who missed the entire South African tour, was in fine form for North Districts before the injury, scoring 156 and taking seven wickets in the Wellington clash.
"It's been slow but it's going really well," Littlejohn said of Southee's progress in rehabilitation.
"He broke his thumb rather badly and ruptured a tendon.
"He's progressing really well through the rehab.
"It's just a case of we want to be overly cautious with Tim because of his importance to us in all forms of the game. So we're not prepared to rush him back at this stage." Littlejohn also said New Zealand Cricket supported Jesse Ryder's decision to make himself unavailable for the English tour.
Ryder, who has been in stunning form for Wellington in all forms of the game this summer, is sticking to a 12-month plan, which won't see him return to the international fold until June at the earliest.
"We always held out hope [he might play in this tour], but I think it's a case of Jesse will know when the time is right," Littlejohn said.
"We won't be pressuring him until he's ready to go.
"It's a case with Jesse that he's got a long-term game to return to the game internationally , and we have to respect that.
"We fully support his decision and we're prepared to support that time frame.
"Whilst we'd love to have him playing, I think we have to respect that and give Jesse that time he needs."
- Fairfax Media
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