NZ gamble on Mason for one-day series

An injury crisis and the retirement of Chris Cairns has forced the New Zealand selectors to pick an experimental line-up for the one-day series against West Indies starting next week. Cairns will play his final game for New Zealand in the Twenty20 international at Auckland on Thursday, and while the top order borders on being settled for the opening two contests the bowling stocks are less impressive.

"There are some issues around selecting allrounders of international quality," John Bracewell, the coach, said. "Michael Mason is currently the best line-and-length bowler in the country. With the gap left by injuries to Kyle Mills, Andre Adams and Jacob Oram, he has a real opportunity to prove himself at international level." Mason has played one Test and five one-day internationals, but his last appearance for New Zealand was in 2004.

Mills is suffering from a groin strain and was not considered, Oram is missing as he recovers from a bruised heel and Adams has a fractured hand. Bracewell said Mills was returning to club cricket this weekend and would play a State Championship match before the squad for the final three matches is selected.

"With a return to form of many players at domestic level there was fierce competition for top-order batsmen," Bracewell said. "It was very much a case of deciding who to leave out rather than who to select." The first ODI is at Wellington on February 18 followed by a game four days later at Queenstown.

New Zealand Stephen Fleming (capt), Nathan Astle, Lou Vincent, Hamish Marshall, Scott Styris, Peter Fulton, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum (wk), Daniel Vettori, Jeetan Patel, James Franklin, Michael Mason, Shane Bond.