New Zealand's hamstrung hero of Hamilton, Martin Guptill, is out of the entire England series after it was revealed he requires thumb surgery.
Guptill blasted 27 not out as he hobbled on a strained left hamstring to guide New Zealand's runchase home in the first ODI on Sunday. But New Zealand Cricket confirmed last night the opener had suffered ligament damage to his left thumb during a training session earlier this month, and will undergo surgery next week.
It is expected to sideline him for 6-8 weeks, and he will target a return for the tour of England which starts with a warm-up match against Guptill's county side, Derbyshire, on May 4. The hamstring problem will keep Guptill out of Saturday's final ODI.
New Zealand physiotherapist Paul Close said while Guptill could continue playing in the short term with the thumb injury he needed to have surgery at some point.
"We felt it was best to get Martin right for the tour to England in May and June, so the next couple of months were seen as the best window to have the surgery."
The injury is similar to that suffered by team-mate Tim Southee in late December, and he was back playing cricket within two months after successful thumb surgery.
Guptill averaged 50 in the three-match Twenty20 series and after his matchwinning knock in Hamilton looked to be returning to his best form.
His absence from the three-test series leaves coach and chief selector Mike Hesson with two opening spots to fill, assuming they follow through with the plan to bat skipper Brendon McCullum at No 5.
Canterbury's Peter Fulton, who scored 98 against Auckland yesterday and was the leading Plunket Shield runscorer heading into this round, is the frontrunner for one spot.
Daniel Flynn is the other leading contender after scoring two centuries since his shift to open for Northern Districts, while Hamish Rutherford, Tom Latham and even Central Districts' Jeet Raval, who scored 121 against Northern yesterday, are in the mix.
Meanwhile, Ross Taylor yesterday ticked off a return to batting form, now his top priority is to rid an annoying case of the dropsies.
The former skipper spoke of his mixed emotions at scoring a breakthrough century off 117 balls to a huge ovation in an eight-wicket defeat to England in the second ODI in Napier. But his catching now becomes the primary focus as New Zealand continue to miss vital chances with the series on the line in Auckland tomorrow.
"I've dropped far too many catches for something that I pride myself on. Last night's one, I thought that was an easy catch and then it just blew straight through my hands. He must have a good bat, that Joe Root," Taylor said of dropping the young England batsman on 58.
"You've just got to continue to work as hard on it at practice as possible and hopefully the confidence hasn't taken too much of a dent. You take some screamers some days and drop some easy ones. At the moment we haven't been fielding as well as we would like and where we know we should be."
New Zealand dropped five catches at Eden Park in their T20 defeat on February 9. They dropped two more in the T20 series finale in Wellington, one in Hamilton and another two in Napier. Captain Brendon McCullum shelled two skiers in Wellington and Napier while Taylor has dropped four.
Australian Trent Woodhill was the fielding coach until last August, but Taylor was unsure who took primary responsibility for the fielding now, out of Hesson and assistant Bob Carter.
"Bob and Hess sort of run it, no one in particular is the boss."
Taylor said he and Hesson hadn't spoken much since his return to the side after being jettisoned as skipper. The coach said "well batted" in Napier, Taylor said.
Taylor admitted the standing ovations at every ground had added to the pressure as he scratched for runs before Wednesday. He hoped his century had repaid the faith of people who'd supported him.
"Any time you're a batsman you've got to be realistic and you think sometimes maybe you're just past it. Hopefully at 28 I'm not," Taylor said.
"I always thought that I could score runs. When, I wasn't sure. I'm not getting too carried away but hopefully I can make the most of it from now on."
- The Dominion Post
Which batting pair would be best at opening in ODIs for the Black Caps?