Boult and Watling out of first Test
The fast bowler Trent Boult and the wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling have been ruled out of the New Zealand side for the first Test against West Indies, starting in Antigua on Wednesday. Both men are suffering from quad injuries and they did not take part in the tour match against the WICB President's XI, a game in which the New Zealanders narrowly escaped with a draw, leaving 13 players available for selection for the Test.
The left-arm fast bowler Neil Wagner has emerged as a strong candidate to make his Test debut after impressing during the tour match, in which he took 3 for 65 and then played a fighting lower-order innings to held the side avoid defeat. Wagner, 26, was born in South Africa and qualified for New Zealand selection in April, and he could be part of a three-man pace attack alongside Chris Martin and Doug Bracewell.
"He has had to wait his time. He's got a very good first-class record and bowls with a lot of aggression," the captain Ross Taylor said of Wagner. "Neil Wagner has got a big chance to make his Test debut here in Antigua. He's an aggressive left-arm bowler who will be dangerous with the older ball as well, reversing it."
Wagner was one of New Zealand's better performers in the tour match and the lack of runs from the specialist batsmen - Kane Williamson's first-innings 55 and Brendon McCullum's second-innings 51 were New Zealand's only half-centuries in the game - would be a concern heading in to the Test. However, Taylor said the side would be better for the outing, despite the lack of runs.
"A warm-up game is a warm-up game. We got what we wanted out of it," he said. "We obviously would have liked a few more runs from our batsmen. We got two bats. We were lucky to come away with the draw but we had a good innings, most of the batsmen had a decent bat out there and the bowlers got a good trundle for one innings. We haven't played with the red ball for a while and it was good to spend a bit of time on our feet.
"[The openers] probably didn't bat as long as the middle order. But they're good players in their own right and I'm sure they'll be looking forward to getting out there on this wicket. The ball is different. It does seem to swing a little bit more so we had to negate that early on and negate the West Indies fast bowlers."
One advantage for New Zealand is the fact that the warm-up game was played at the same venue as the upcoming Test match, which has given them an early look at the conditions in Antigua. Taylor said all in all the three-day game had been a benefit for his men.
"We had a few players coming back and four or five of the guys haven't played cricket for a while," he said. "It was good for them to get out there and play some cricket. The warm-up game, you don't often get to play on the ground you're going to be playing a Test match on. Just getting used to the familiar surroundings I'm sure will be beneficial for the team."