Henry fails fitness test ahead of Firebirds clash

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 04/12/2013

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Matt Henry has been ruled out of Canterbury's Plunket Shield match against Wellington in Rangiora today.

The Wizards' strike bowler did not pass a fitness test on match eve, and although coach Gary Stead said Henry could have played, they opted for the sensible approach given there is still a lot of cricket to be played this summer.

"He's just got a bit of hamstring tightness, and while he possibly could have got through the game, we don't think he would have been at his best," Stead said.

"We just wanted to make sure, with a long season ahead, we've got him for other parts of the season. We are hoping he will only be out for this game and be ready for the next game."

Henry's wicket-taking ability and lower order hitting will be missed but his absence is alleviated by the return of allrounder Andrew Ellis, who missed the nine-wicket loss to Otago at Rangiora two weeks ago because of international commitments with New Zealand. Logan van Beek, 12th man for that match, also comes into the equation.

On the batting front, regular captain Peter Fulton (Black Caps duty) and Simon Keen (injured) make way for Rob Nicol and Tom Latham who are also returning from New Zealand duty in Sri Lanka.

At face value it looks to be a strong batting lineup, though, after an excellent first-up win over Auckland, runs were hard to come by against Otago a fortnight ago, with Canterbury posting scores of 243 and 192 at Rangiora.

"Whatever we do, we've got to do it well [today], whether it's with the bat or the ball," Stead said.

"We know that and we've talked about how important the first innings is in terms of setting up the game."

Canterbury have struggled for runs in their two completed Twenty20 matches - both losses - but those matches were a month apart and Stead said it was difficult to read anything into them, especially when it comes to four-day cricket.

"We didn't play that well in either of those games, we're aware of that, but it's Plunket Shield time for the next month and we're fully focused on that.

"The players have played enough now that they have adapted and know what's required of them."

Stead felt the Rangiora wicket had a "little less" grass on it than usual so he expected plenty of runs this week.

Former international fast bowler Mark Gillespie, who injured an ankle in Wellington's last four-day game, said he was fit after firing down two spells during Monday's net session and he'll add some zip to the Firebirds attack.

The visitors have a top-heavy batting lineup led by former Canterbury and New Zealand opener Michael Papps, who scored close to 1700 runs across all competitions last summer and has already notched 227 runs at 75.66 in the Plunket Shield this season.

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Both teams are on the competition pace, with a win and a loss each.

- Fairfax Media

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