Mark Gillespie’s ankle coalition of the unwilling

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013

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Painkillers are as much a tool of Mark Gillespie's trade as his bowling boots.

Now it's a cortisone injection that has got him back on the park, after injuring an ankle nearly a month ago.

The 34-year-old Wellington quick felt something go when he slipped in his delivery stride on day one of Wellington's eventual five-wicket Plunket Shield win over Central Districts.

A club game for North City against Eastern Suburbs last Saturday was his first action since, as he seeks to bowl through a degenerative problem that has developed in his ankle.

"The scans showed that I've got a bone coalition or something. Two bones are forming together and whether or not that was the issue [against CD] I don't know. I've had a jab and it seems all right," Gillespie said after being named in Wellington's Plunket Shield team to meet Canterbury at Rangiora from today.

Despite the scans, Gillespie is sceptical about the whole "coalition" thing.

"To be honest, it felt very nervy and because my back's fried it just sends the wrong signals places. When I slipped, that's what I was saying to Vijay [Firebirds physio Vijay Vallabh], that it was very nervy."

Like many an athlete these days, Gillespie was confined to a moon boot and hours of torturous conditioning sessions on a grinder "which is the worst thing ever".

The rehab meant he missed the first chunk of Wellington's Twenty20 campaign. Limited overs cricket hasn't always been Gillespie's best format, but he's confident of featuring in the T20 and 50-over matches to come.

"With Taity [Aussie import Shaun Tait] here it was an ideal opportunity to get the ankle sorted. I could've played, but we had the firepower in town so it was no stress."

While Wellington are delighted to have Gillespie back, they're miffed by how much cricket Michael Papps is playing for them. They believe he should have gone on New Zealand's limited overs trip to Sri Lanka ahead of Rob Nicol and is a far better all-round batsman than test top-order players Peter Fulton and Aaron Redmond.

One of the knocks on Papps is his mobility in the field, but Wellington counter by saying the 34-year-old has the best hands in their team, whether it be catching in the cordon or his ground fielding in the circle.

It's certainly difficult to argue with Papps' runs or the manner in which he has made them lately. He scored just shy of 1700 across all competitions last summer and this season is second in the Twenty20 aggregates, with 155 runs at an average of 51.66 and sixth for the Plunket Shield (227 runs at 75.66).

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He heads an experienced and proven Firebirds batting lineup, coming into the start of today's clash. Between himself and James Franklin, Grant Elliott and Luke Ronchi are players who can churn out big runs, while Stephen Murdoch is in career-best form.

Wellington's issue will be taking 20 wickets in this match and they know it.

- Fairfax Media

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