South Africa in New Zealand, 2011-12 February 28, 2012

Taylor to return for first Test

ESPNcricinfo staff

Ross Taylor will captain New Zealand in the first Test against South Africa after impressing the medical staff with his recovery from a calf injury. But his side will be without the batsman Dean Brownlie, who needs more time to get over a fractured finger he sustained during the second ODI against Zimbabwe.

Taylor suffered his problem during the only Test against Zimbabwe last month and has missed the ODIs and Twenty20s against both Zimbabwe and South Africa. Brendon McCullum has led the side in Taylor's absence and he will hand the reins back for the first Test, which begins in Dunedin on Wednesday next week.

"We are pleased with Ross's improvement and he will have fully recovered from the calf injury in time to lead the team against South Africa," the New Zealand team physio Dean Close said.

Taylor has been his country's leading Test run scorer since he took over the captaincy from Daniel Vettori last year and his inclusion will be a major boost for New Zealand, who are hoping for their first Test series win against South Africa. But the loss of Brownlie will hurt, given the success he has had in his short Test career.

Brownlie is second behind Taylor on the run tally this season and he was especially impressive on the tour of Australia, where he was the leading scorer in the series and helped New Zealand to a historic Test win in Hobart. It remains to be seen whether Brownlie will play later in the South African series, but Close said he would not be ready for the Dunedin Test.

"After discussions with Dean and the medical specialists it is clear he will not have recovered in time for him to be considered for the first Test," Close said. "With the injured finger being on his left hand he is struggling to grip the bat without pain. He is progressing, and has started hitting balls, but needs more time to fully heal before he's ready for the rigours of international cricket."

New Zealand and South Africa meet in two more one-day internationals over the next week before the three-Test series begins.

Edited by Brydon Coverdale