Time running out for Trent Boult as New Zealand face Australian challenge

Trent Boult spents some time by himself in the middle of the pitch AFP / Getty Images

All eyes will be on Trent Boult in Perth as he aims to prove his fitness for the day-night Test that starts on Thursday following the side strain he picked up against England.

Boult was forced to miss the second Test of that series in Hamilton and though he was passed fit to travel to Australia, given the impact side strains can have on fast bowlers there must still be some doubt as to whether he will pull up in time.

He was part of the second group of players to arrive into Perth on Sunday and did not bowl during New Zealand's first floodlit training session on Monday evening although recovery from the travel was also a factor in that. That leaves Boult with two days to prove he can withstand the workload of a Test which is set to be played in temperatures topping 40 degrees.

New Zealand will be desperate for him to line-up at Perth Stadium as he has enjoyed considerable success with the pink ball in the two day-night Tests he has played - taking 16 wickets 12.50 with two five-wicket hauls - which included the first ever to take place at Adelaide in 2015. But they will need to balance the desire to have him this week with the fact there are two more Tests to come in Melbourne and Sydney.

"He'll be assessed over the next couple of days over how he pulls up," Boult's new-ball partner Tim Southee said. "If he gets through the next few days I don't see why he wouldn't play. He's an experienced guy and knows his body very well."

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Boosted by his returns in the Adelaide Test four years ago, Boult has the best record of New Zealand's quicks in Australia, where he averages 33.47, which included taking four wickets on his debut in Hobart in 2011 when the visitors clinched a seven-run victory. While New Zealand are far from a one-man attack losing Boult for the opening Test would be a massive blow to their chances of earning a first series win in Australia since 1985-86.

Still, Boult's returns in Australia are six runs higher than his overall career average which is a trend among the New Zealand pacemen who have had some tough times across the Tasman. Southee, who first toured in 2008, averages over 50 while Matt Henry's two wickets cost 158, albeit on a road at the WACA in 2015.

"Personally, you look at what didn't work and what you can do," Southee said. "It was a few years ago so guys are different players. You are always trying to find ways to be better, for those guys who were here last time they'll be trying to improve on what happened. That's an advantage of being here in the past, the three grounds we are playing at we haven't played Test cricket at but having that experience on other grounds, it is a tough place to come, and the few guys who were on the last tour are able to call back on that experience."

Two quicks - who for different reasons could play a vital role - do not have that experience in Australia to fall back on. Neil Wagner did not make the XI on the previous tour while Lockie Ferguson is still awaiting his first Test cap after considerable success in the ODI and T20I side and in first-class cricket where he averages 24.30 for his 153 wickets.

"Lockie has done extremely well in white ball at the start of his international career. He's got a great first-class record and brings out and out pace - Trent and I swing the ball and Neil brings his own unique style - so it's nice to have another variation waiting for his chance," Southee said. "Neil will be thoroughly excited about a chance to play a Test in Australia, he'll do Neil's thing and has been brilliant for us for a long time in various conditions. It's a side that's been reasonably settled but it's nice to have that addition of someone like Lockie who can bowl out and out pace."

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In the four years since not playing that Australia series Wagner has enjoyed outstanding returns with 129 wickets at 23.61, most recently taking 13 wickets on two flat pitches against England. Teams know they will get a barrage of short balls from him, and they continue to take a bagful of wickets, but in the England series it was his knuckle ball that also caught the eye.

If Boult does not recover in time to play the opening Test it would create a natural vacancy for Ferguson, but the extra pace he can provide is likely to be needed during the series regardless if New Zealand are to prevail.