New Zealand wait on Southee's fitness
Tim Southee's fitness remains uncertain on the eve of New Zealand's second Test against Sri Lanka, at the P Sara Oval in Colombo. Ross Taylor, the New Zealand captain, was hopeful Southee had recovered well enough from a groin strain he picked up in the first Test, to take the field on Sunday, but said team management would assess the fast bowler and make the final decision before the toss.
Southee was New Zealand's best player in Galle, producing a terrific spell of swing bowling to take 4 for 46 in the first innings, as he and Trent Boult reduced Sri Lanka's top order to 50 for 5. He was also New Zealand's best bowler in the two-Test series against India in September. Southee did not take the field during Sri Lanka's chase of 92 in the first Test.
"Tim has been on a lot of rehab in the last few days, had a good training yesterday for a full session," Taylor said. "He had a good bowl out and did some fitness and pulled through that well. Don't know how he will pull up again tomorrow. I guess with injuries in this part of the world we'll have the final assessment in the morning.
"In the Test match in Bangalore he bowled very well and led the attack. It's a young attack and he is leading that attack very well. We gave ourselves a chance in Galle, but we didn't capitalise on it as much as we would have liked."
Taylor said legspinner Todd Astle is in the reckoning for a debut in Colombo, and will play if Southee is not deemed fit. Astle began his first-class career as an opening batsman, and may be considered even if Southee does play, in which case he will likely replace a batsman.
"He's not far off being a genuine allrounder," Taylor said of Astle. "He's fitted into the group very well and he's got a good work ethic and he is trying hard. He comes into the reckoning with the wicket here and different bounce."
Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath may have vanquished the visitors inside three days in the first Test, but Taylor said his side had also prepared for the threat posed by the remainder of Sri Lanka's attack. Herath took 11 wickets in Sri Lanka's ten-wicket win, but the hosts' new-ball bowlers also troubled New Zealand's batsmen in Galle, taking early wickets in each innings. Sri Lanka's second spinner Suraj Randiv created pressure with discipline, but finished with only two wickets in the match.
New Zealand have used the extra two days in training, and Taylor said they had formulated batting plans they believe will prevent a record-equalling sixth consecutive loss for New Zealand.
"We can't just focus on Herath, there are other quality bowlers we got to play well against," Taylor said. "If we just play Herath well and the other guys bowl well we can still be bowled out very cheaply.
"It's important for batsmen to know their plans and trust their plans and take that out to the middle. You have to be in right frame of mind to not only defend well but to try and find the scoring options."
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka