Settled New Zealand weigh options
New Zealand appear to be moving towards sticking with the 11 players used in the home series against England when the return contest starts at Lord's next week.
An unchanged top-order seems certain after Martin Guptill was left out of the final warm-up match against England Lions, while Doug Bracewell could struggle to force his way into the line-up although has a chance to impress at Grace Road in the absence of Neil Wagner who has been rested.
Guptill missed the series in New Zealand due to a hamstring injury followed by thumb surgery and both opening slots in the side have been successfully filled by Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton, although neither shone against Derbyshire. That left Guptill battling for a middle-order place but he made just 25 and 8 in the first warm-up match while Dean Brownlie, the most under-pressure of the incumbent batsmen, made 71 in the first innings.
Wagner, who formed a three-pronged pace attack with Tim Southee and Trent Boult in New Zealand, took eight wickets in the match against Derbyshire. Brendon McCullum confirmed there were no injury worries over him after he had problems with a toenail towards the end of that game. "Wagner has a huge chance of playing at Lord's," he said. "He's fine, it was just a case of bowlers and toenails."
McCullum has also previously said that he is keen to retain balance in the attack with Bruce Martin's left-arm spin, although it is not inconceivable that if conditions were persuasive enough New Zealand may consider an all-pace attack at Lord's and rely on Kane Williamson's offspin for variation. Williamson was a surprisingly effective bowler in the previous series, taking four wickets in the second innings in Auckland, when England hung on nine wickets down, while Martin went wicketless.
"We have got a pretty good squad here and what we think is a reasonable eleven," McCullum said. "The guys who played the other day performed well and put pressure on the incumbents and we haven't bedded down our Test team just yet."
Bracewell, who has 46 wickets at 31.89 in 15 matches, made a case for a Test recall with seven wickets against Derbyshire having missed the home series after injuring his foot standing on glass. However, another factor in Wagner's favour is that England have at times struggled against left-arm pace bowlers. Alastair Cook fell to either Wagner or Boult in four out of his five innings in the recent Test series.
"We'll see how Doug goes but I'm confident both can do a role," McCullum said. "It's more a horses-for-courses policy rather than favouring one person."
New Zealand XI 1 Hamish Rutherford, 2 Peter Fulton, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Dean Brownlie, 6 Brendon McCullum (capt), 7 BJ Watling, 8 Doug Bracewell, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Bruce Martin, 11 Trent Boult
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo