New Zealand have suffered a third major injury blow in three Tests with news that vice-captain Tim Southee has been ruled out of the Hamilton match with a hamstring tear. Although only a grade one tear, Southee will not be risked in an attack that is still waiting on confirmation of whether Trent Boult, who sat out the Wellington Test with an upper leg injury, will be able to lead it. At the other end of the line-up, New Zealand are without their most experienced batsman Ross Taylor, who suffered a calf tear in the first Test and has not been able to participate in the remaining two.
Southee's absence leaves New Zealand with four other seam options: Neil Wagner, Matt Henry, who is yet to play in the series, and allrounders Colin de Grandhomme and Jimmy Neesham. It is likely New Zealand will choose between three of the quartet to feature in an attack that is set to include both specialist spinners.
Jeetan Patel and Mitchell Santner are the two slower bowlers in the New Zealand squad and both played in the first Test in Dunedin, at the expense of Southee, on a slow, low surface. The Hamilton one is set to be similar, although it is also expected to take some turn. With New Zealand deciding not to add legspinner Ish Sodhi to their squad, the two tweakers will likely be in the starting XI.
This is Southee's second injury of the summer. In September, he was ruled out of the three-Test series in India after an ankle ligament strain. He went on to play the four home Tests against Pakistan and Bangladesh, against whom he picked up his 200th Test wicket, before sitting out the first Test against South Africa in Dunedin and being brought back for the second. There is no word on whether the injury will affect Southee's participation in the IPL, which starts on April 5.
Since Boult's Test debut in December 2011, New Zealand have played only three matches without both Boult and Southee, none of which the side could win.
South Africa have an injury concern of their own. Quinton de Kock suffered damage to a tendon on his right index finger and could need up to six weeks on the sidelines. A late call will be taken on de Kock's availability on Friday afternoon.