Rain forces day two test start in Dunedin

MARK GEENTY IN DUNEDIN
Last updated 12:09 06/03/2013

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A bitter southerly ensured day one of the three-test series between New Zealand and England was a damp squib in Dunedin today.

Rain swept in just before 11am, after the start was delayed due to bad light, and ensured the day was washed out after New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum won the toss and chose to bowl. 

Play was abandoned at 4.15pm with no sign of a break in the clouds. 

Fine weather is forecast throughout tomorrow when a start is scheduled for 10am.

There was selection drama on both sides before the rain arrived, with New Zealand handing spinner Bruce Martin a long-awaited test debut, at seamer Ian Butler's expense. 

And England's No 1 spinner Graeme Swann was ruled out of the tour to undergo surgery on his right elbow, meaning a reprieve for left-armer Monty Panesar.

Martin, 32, has waited more than a decade for an elusive first test appearance after he was summoned to the New Zealand squad to face Australia in 2000, but didn't make the final 11.

He toured South Africa in January but Jeetan Patel was the preferred spinner.

McCullum explained with the dry University Oval pitch, which is expected to be slow and low, Martin could be a factor later in the match.

Butler was expected to get the nod with his ability to reverse swing the ball, and the fact Dunedin generally doesn't favour spin. 

Left-armer Neil Wagner got the nod as third seamer as a replacement for Doug Bracewell who was ruled out yesterday with a cut to his right foot, suffered when he stood on a piece of glass at his home in Napier last Saturday.

Hamish Rutherford will be New Zealand's other test debutant as he opens the innings with Peter Fulton, playing his first test since December 2009.

England were set to name a predictable 11 until Swann's dramas emerged. The 33-year-old's troublesome elbow flared up during the warm-up match in Queenstown and it was decided he couldn't get through five days of cricket.

An England Cricket Board statement said Swann's tour of New Zealand was over and he would fly to the United States for surgery on the elbow next week.

It was anticipated he would return in the "early summer", which means he'd be racing to be fit for the two-test home series against New Zealand in May. The Ashes series against Australia, starting in July, would be a more likely target for the spinner who has 212 wickets from 50 tests.

Fellow off-spinner James Tredwell, who played in the limited overs series, has been summoned back to New Zealand as Swann's replacement in the squad.

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England arrive with a world ranking of two, after a 2-1 series win in India before Christmas, while New Zealand are ranked eighth after losing seven of their past eight tests.

It's the first test between the sides since England won both home and away series in 2008.

In the past decade the teams have played nine tests, with England winning seven, New Zealand one (in Hamilton in 2008), and the other drawn.

New Zealand are unbeaten in four tests at University Oval, the most a recent a year ago when they drew with South Africa.

New Zealand: Hamish Rutherford, Peter Fulton, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Dean Brownlie, Brendon McCullum (captain), BJ Watling, Tim Southee, Bruce Martin, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult.

England: Alastair Cook (captain), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Monty Panesar.

Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pakistan), Paul Reiffel (Australia). Third umpire: Rod Tucker (Australia).

- Stuff

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