An impending test recall for Daniel Vettori and an improving medical report on BJ Watling brightened the gloom around the New Zealand team after their post-Lord’s debrief.
Fittingly, dark clouds shrouded London today as the New Zealand players were given the day off to explore their Kensington surrounds and digest how it went so badly wrong in the 170-run defeat to England in the first test at Lord’s.
Vettori is being seriously considered to replace the injured Bruce Martin in Friday’s second and final test in Leeds after the fellow left-arm spinner’s tour was ended by a right calf strain.
The 34-year-old Vettori, who returned to New Zealand after not being required for any Indian Premier League matches with Bangalore, had his arrival brought forward 24 hours and is scheduled to join his team-mates in Leeds early tomorrow (NZT).
If Vettori can convince coach Mike Hesson and captain Brendon McCullum he can endure the rigours of a five-day test, having not played a test or first-class game in 10 months, then the veteran will be handed his 113th test cap.
If Watling’s recovery from a heavily bruised knee continues encouragingly, Vettori for Martin could be the only change from the first test.
“He’s done plenty of bowling in the last couple of months in the IPL, albeit in the nets. He’s got through plenty of work. But it’s a matter of whether we think he’s going to be able to get through five days of a test match,” Hesson said.
“We won’t risk Dan for the sake of a test. But in saying that it is an important test match for us.”
Vettori was originally scheduled to arrive with the ODI specialists but Hesson and McCullum requested he shift his flight forward one day.
He played two domestic one-day matches in March on return from an Achilles tendon injury layoff, and his last test was against West Indies last July.
But Vettori’s class, experience and batting ability at No 8 would be priceless in a test New Zealand must win to level the series.
Hesson said Vettori would be assessed at their Wednesday net session. Fellow spinner Jeetan Patel is also on standby, should Vettori not be deemed ready.
Patel took eight wickets in his past two bowling innings for Warwickshire, the latest spell 5-56 against Yorkshire.
Hesson was hopeful about Watling who he rated a good chance of being fit after his left knee slammed onto the Lord’s pitch.
If not, captain Brendon McCullum appears the favourite to reclaim the gloves with Tom Latham and ODI squad member Luke Ronchi the other options.
Hesson couldn’t see the point in sending his players for naughty boy nets today, even though some were keen to train.
He was disappointed, frustrated and stunned by his side’s collapse for 68, chasing 239 to win. But changes to the batting were unlikely for Leeds and there were several contributing factors to the collapse, he said.
“The location, the occasion, the chance to win a test at Lord’s. We were a little bit timid with the bat and the quality of the England bowlers got to us a little bit.”
Hesson was prepared to cut them some slack, against a standout fast bowling display by Stuart Broad and James Anderson.
He pointed out New Zealand played 18 days of largely excellent cricket against England at home and at Lord’s, and preferred to focus on that rather than what McCullum described as their “hour of madness”.
“We all know what happened and we were thoroughly disappointed with the hour. But there were some amazing performances. We caught very well throughout the match and the bowling was outstanding.
"Putting Tim [Southee] aside, who grew another leg in that spell on the third evening, Trent [Boult] and Neil [Wagner] and the way Bruce bowled in the first innings certainly set the tone.”
There was minor satisfaction for Southee in joining Dion Nash (1994) as the only New Zealanders to take 10 wickets in a Lord’s test.
Hesson noted that South African Makhaya Ntini, in 2003, was the last bowler to grace the honours board in the visitors’ dressing room.
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