Doug Bracewell has been ruled out of today's Plunket Shield match at Karori Park with a hand injury but remains on track to fly to South Africa later this week.
The New Zealand seamer was counting his blessings yesterday after X-rays cleared him of a broken right thumb. He suffered the injury when he dropped a Jesse Ryder shot during Wellington's 55-run win over Central Districts in a Twenty20 match on Friday.
Central manager Lance Hamilton said Bracewell feared his tour of South Africa was over before it had begun, when his hand ballooned and he couldn't feel the ball or grip the bat at Napier's McLean Park.
"There's still a whole heap of swelling around his thumb joint and the palm of his hand. At this stage he's still travelling to South Africa because it's not broken but he just needs time off to get the swelling down," Hamilton said.
Seamer Roald Badenhorst was summoned to the 12 yesterday as Bracewell's replacement. Injuries are starting to gnaw away at the runaway Plunket Shield leaders who are also without regular skipper Kieran Noema-Barnett, Tarun Nethula and Ben Wheeler.
But they got a boost yesterday when unwanted test gloveman Kruger van Wyk rejoined them in Wellington in time for the four-dayer after becoming a father at 7.30pm on Friday.
Another expectant dad, Luke Woodcock, won't be seen for Wellington, though, with his partner expected to be induced last night or today. From the 12 who travelled to Auckland for the drawn match, all-rounder James Franklin replaces Harry Boam, while Jeetan Patel replaces fellow spinner Mark Houghton.
The Stags are flying at the top of the table, with a 13-point lead over Otago, who have played one extra match, and another 16 points back to Auckland. Wellington are fifth, 39 points adrift of Central with a game in hand.
"They've slipped away and I'm sure everyone in the competition will be wanting us to knock them over," coach Jamie Siddons said.
That will be easier said than done, with a batter-friendly pitch expected for Karori Park's second first-class match. The first, between the same sides in March, saw Wellington rack up 501-6 before rain intervened. "It had a bit of grass on it but they've cut a fair bit of it off which is a shame. It changed colour with the cut so I think it'll be pretty good."
Another outright win for Central will almost see the engravers begin carving a "C" on the Plunket Shield before the halfway point. Conversely, anything less than 12 points will put the Firebirds' title hopes in jeopardy.
"You've got to have a crack. We've obviously shown, and CD have shown, that we don't mind setting targets. It's a shame we have to go about it that way and the team batting last seems to be winning them all," Siddons said.
"We've got to make inroads. We've got a really good attack with Jeets back in there so hopefully we can bowl them out."
Dane Hutchinson is the likely 12th man, with Scott Kuggeleijn, Mark Gillespie and Chris Woakes to form the pace attack.
What: Plunket Shield, Wellington v Central Districts
Where: Karori Park
When: 10.30am today (day one of four)
Wellington: Josh Brodie, Michael Papps, Stephen Murdoch (c), Jesse Ryder, James Franklin, Grant Elliott, Luke Ronchi, Chris Woakes, Jeetan Patel, Scott Kuggeleijn, Mark Gillespie, Dane Hutchinson.
Central Districts: Jamie How (c), Jeet Raval, Carl Cachopa, Mathew Sinclair, William Young, Kruger van Wyk, Peter Trego, Adam Milne, Ajaz Patel, Andrew Lamb, Andrew Mathieson, Roald Badenhorst.
- The Dominion Post