Kiwis in a quandary over pacer Southee’s availability

Perth, Nov 12 (IANS) New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum will give injured pacer Tim Southee until the eleventh hour to prove his fitness for the second Test against Australia, leaving the exact make-up of the tourists’ five-man bowling attack unknown.

Black Caps coach Mike Hesson indicated earlier this week that the absence of all-rounder Jimmy Neesham would lead to a shift in the balance of the side, and McCullum all but confirmed that Mark Craig would be elevated to the No.7 role to allow four quicks to be included for the must-win Test at the Western Australia Cricket Association (WACA) ground.

Australia have already taken a 1-0 lead in the three-match Test series.

The fitness of Southee, who irritated a disc and was unable to bowl during the second innings of the first Test in Brisbane, is the burning issue for New Zealand, and McCullum said the experience of his pace spearhead meant he would trust him to determine his own fitness.

“I don’t think anyone’s 100 per cent when they play this game, (but) he’s got to be close to it,” McCullum was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au on Thursday.

“You cut him a little bit of slack because he’s been around the block a few times. He knows how to get himself up and get himself to the crease and still operate, even when he’s not quite 100 per cent.”

“He’ll be cut a little bit more slack than someone we probably don’t know as much about. He’s an honest bloke. He’ll tell us, (and) the decision he makes will be the best for the team,” the Kiwi skipper added.

“If he is fit, I’m sure he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the game on a wicket that should provide him with a bit of bounce and obvious swing here in Perth.”

Southee bowled again on Thursday at the WACA nets as the Kiwis look to bounce back from a 208-run defeat in Brisbane. If the right-arm quick does pull through without soreness, he will join Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell and likely either left-armer Neil Wagner or Matt Henry as a pace foursome hoping to benefit from a pitch that is set to stay true to the WACA’s traditional characteristics of pace and bounce.

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