Kane Williamson is looking likely for first test
Kane Williamson is a "95 per cent" chance to play in the first test against the West Indies in Dunedin next week and Corey Anderson is available to bowl.
Both pieces of news give coach Mike Hesson and skipper Brendon McCullum the options they want and perhaps need as the two allrounders are crucial to the side's balance.
Williamson and Anderson were included in a largely predictable 13-man squad announced yesterday which did feature the recall of Otago's Aaron Redmond, as batting cover.
New Zealand Cricket selection boss Bruce Edgar said Williamson would be given every opportunity to play and a final decision could be left as late as match morning.
"Let's say 95 per cent at this stage. [We'll] judge that closer to the time. But certainly we are really hopeful that he will play."
The 23-year-old got through a training session well this week and Edgar said he was desperate to play.
Should Williamson not be right, Otago's Redmond would play his eighth test and first since five years ago tomorrow.
Williamson will play with a protective device on his left thumb after it was broken in the field just four weeks ago and will not field in his usually gully position.
He is expected to bat and bowl as normal and Anderson, who did not bowl in Northern Districts' win over Central Districts this week, is available to bowl too, Edgar said.
As expected Ish Sodi won the spinner's battle over Bruce Martin, though Edgar said called the decision a "toss-up."
"Ish certainly bowled well in Bangladesh, [he] created a lot of opportunities. Bruce was just a little bit off the pace there."
It was hoped Martin would push his case for a re-call with domestic form, Edgar said.
Redmond was a bolter of sorts with Dean Brownlie and Tom Latham both playing for the New Zealand XI against the West Indies XI in a three-day match at Lincoln.
Neither Latham or Brownlie seemingly did enough and Redmond's strong domestic form, and 67 for the West Indies XI at Lincoln, earned him the spot.
He averages 68 in first-class cricket this season and was last year's Plunket Shield top run scorer with 941 runs at 55.35 including three hundreds and six fifties.
Edgar said Brownlie had simply not done enough.
"Dean was a little bit unlucky," he said.
"At this stage we'd like to see more runs from him batting [at number three]."
With Redmond as cover, the only other decision left to make for Hesson and McCullum is which bowler to leave out.
If Dunedin's University Oval pitch is spiced up as expected - and as bowling coach Shane Bond hopes for - there is an option to play the pace quartet of Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Doug Bracewell.
In that case, the side could rely on Williamson as a spin option.
Or Sodhi could play his first home test, probably at the expense of Bracewell after Wagner took seven wickets in New Zealand's last test, against Bangladesh.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand XI-West Indies XI match ended in a contrived draw at Lincoln.
New Zealand test openers Peter Fulton and Hamish Rutherford added 142 for the first wicket in New Zealand's second innings before retiring on 53 and 72 respectively.
McCullum was caught well pulling for 10 before declaring his side's innings closed at 168-3.
The visitors then batted 31 overs reaching 121-2 before the match was called off , just 45 runs short of victory.
Openers Kirk Edwards (25) and Chadwick Walton (61no) picked up some valuable time in the middle while the side's star, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, was out for 12.
The visitors clearly didn't want to play Redmond into form as he didn't bat in the second innings.
Short scoreboard: NZ XI 227-8 dec. and 168-3 dec. (H Rutherford 72, P Fulton 53) drew with West Indies XI 230-6 dec. and 121-2 (C Walton 61no, K Edwards 25; M Craig 2-38).
● Spare a thought for Brownlie and Latham. On Thursday, presumably just hours before being told they weren't required for the test series, they were required to front up for a sponsorship launch and, get this, wear the new test tops for a photo op.
New Zealand test squad: Brendon McCullum (c), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Peter Fulton, Aaron Redmond, Hamish Rutherford, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Kane Williamson.