There were musical chairs in the New Zealand dressing room at Headingley but it seems the biggest seat will be reserved for Daniel Vettori, ahead of tomorrow’s second cricket test against England.
Just days after spinner Bruce Martin (calf) was ruled out of the tour, gloveman BJ Watling suffered the same fate after he admitted to team management his badly bruised left knee was still not right after training.
Coach Mike Hesson immediately put the pen through Watling’s name, then recalled batsman Martin Guptill for his first test since January and threw the wicketkeeping gloves to captain Brendon McCullum.
Guptill will bat six with McCullum shuffling down a spot, and Vettori, if passed fit, further bolstering the order at No 8.
As Watling went through his fitness test, with positive noises from the New Zealand camp earlier suggesting he would be fit to play, most eyes were trained on the returning 112-test spinner.
Vettori trained fully without over-extending himself. Management were tight-lipped and said he would be reassessed on match eve, after a night’s sleep.
In a nothing to lose situation, all signs pointed to Vettori returning for his first test in 10 months.
“It’s been massive,” said New Zealand fast bowler Neil Wagner of Vettori’s return. “Walking in the changing room this morning and seeing him there, he’s an experienced campaigner and he brings a lot to the team. It will be good to see him back in action again.”
Vettori hasn’t played a competitive match since the domestic one-day competition in March, after a long layoff to recover from an Achilles tendon problem.
But Wagner felt Vettori would have a solid base of net bowling under his belt in India and even predicted he could produce something special if he plays his first test since the West Indies in Antigua last July.
“He’s been getting himself ready for the one-dayers which are just around the corner so I don’t think he’ll be too short on bowling. He was doing all his stuff in the nets and he looked fine, like the normal Dan Vettori,” Wagner said.
“He’s a class performer and if he gets the opportunity in the test I won’t be surprised if he rocks up and takes a five-for. That’s just the way Dan rolls.
"And as a bowling unit knowing that he’s hopefully going to be standing next to you at mid-off giving you that experience and knowing you can have a chat to him and pick his brains is quite nice.”
Wagner felt it would be a typical Headingley pitch which produced plenty of runs in recent times, although the bowlers were encouraged by how much the ball swung at training.
Vice-captain Kane Williamson said Vettori “looked great” at training and agreed his arrival was well received as New Zealand try to regroup from their 170-run defeat at Lord’s.
Watling made the final decision on his fitness, Williamson said.
That opened the way for Guptill to return for a rare middle order spot, having opened in South Africa in January then suffered thumb and hamstring injuries against England in February.
McCullum was thrown the gloves ahead of backup Tom Latham who appears too risky a proposition to keep wicket in a test match.
The lessons from their collapse for 68 at Lord’s were being heeded, Williamson said. Batsmen were working on playing the ball as late as possible and dealing with late swing generated by Stuart Broad and James Anderson.
Opener Hamish Rutherford worked overtime in an extended net session, and was still going as his team-mates headed for the sheds.
Said Williamson: “Individuals need to make subtle adjustments. That hour of bowling from Broad and Anderson taught us a few lessons and exposed us.
"That’s what can happen over here and we needed to change the shots we played.”
- © Fairfax NZ News
Is cricket still NZ's top summer sport?Related story: Rain can't save Black Caps from big defeat