New Zealand's Tim Southee (right) has beenn ruled out of
the South African tour. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte
New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum knows an
already difficult task against South Africa has become even
more formidable after the loss of No 1 strike bowler Tim
Southee to injury.
Southee was last night ruled out of the test series against
the world's No 1-ranked test nation with a thumb injury after
suffering extensive damage to his digit while diving in the
field during this week's Plunket Shield match between
Northern Districts and Wellington.
Scans showed he ruptured the ligament in his thumb and he
will require surgery, ruling him out of cricket for six to
"Tim's been our No 1 bowler in test cricket for the last
while, and also the one-dayers as well," McCullum said. "He's
a real leader of the attack, even at such a young age, so
he's going to be a huge loss.
"Our thoughts are with him because I know he had a keen eye
on this series, to test himself out against some of the
world's best test bowlers in [Morne] Morkel, [Dale] Steyn and
the like. I guess what it does do is give somebody else an
opportunity, so we'll welcome whoever that steps up to his
Southee has been in tremendous form since snaring 7-64 in the
first innings of the second test against India in Bangalore.
He's taken 20 wickets in his last three tests, including the
impressive match figures of 8-120 in New Zealand's 167-run
win over Sri Lanka in Colombo last month.
His absence comes on top of those of Ross Taylor and Jesse
Ryder for personal reasons and the injured Daniel Vettori,
and will put more pressure on young left-armer Trent Boult
and Doug Bracewell. It will also throw a curve ball into
McCullum's plans to install Southee as vice-captain.
South Africa have some injury concerns of their own, with
Vernon Philander in doubt for the first test starting on
January 2 after a flare-up of his left hamstring. Philander,
who took 21 wickets against New Zealand during last summer's
home series, is expected to be out for up to two weeks.
Southee had been excused from the Twenty20 international
component of the tour for the impending birth of his first
child and was due to join the team for the two-test series. A
replacement has not yet been called in but some consideration
might be given to players like Mitchell McClenaghan, already
in South Africa for the three Twenty20 matches, and it might
be hoped Mark Gillespie will be fit in time.
The first Twenty20 international is played in Durban tomorrow
morning (5am NZT) and the Black Caps head into the match on
the back of an encouraging 24-run win over South Africa A on
Wednesday morning (NZT).
McCullum said there was a "high level of excitement" in the
team as a largely young and unproven side take on a South
African outfit also shorn of some of their top-line players
and it was an "easy group to gel together" as he prepares for
his first series since being appointed captain on a permanent
"The guys have prepared really well," McCullum said. "We had
a good warm-up game the other day where we got to try out
some combinations and see some guys in action. Obviously
tomorrow is going to be a step up but we are really forward
to it and see it as a huge opportunity for this team.
"They are enthusiastic and possess some really good skills
and I think they fit into this team really well. It's quite
nice to bring them all in at the same time so they can find
their feet as one rather than trying to feel their way on
their own. There are many unknowns from our point of view but
we see that as exciting and an opportunity for those guys
rather than being concerned about not knowing what you are
going to get from them. Hopefully that little bit of
spontaneity that the new guys can bring to us can add a
little bit of punch to our team as well."
McCullum said they would make a couple of changes to the side
that played against South Africa A, with Boult, Bracewell and
Martin Guptill, who all sat out the tour opener, good bets to