New Zealand spin-bowling allrounder Mitchell Santner has been sidelined from the Edgbaston Test with a finger injury. His captain Kane Williamson is under an injury cloud, having sustained an elbow niggle ahead of the second Test, which starts on June 10. New Zealand head coach Gary Stead said that the team management would take the final call on Williamson on the eve of the match.
Trent Boult, their premier seamer, however, has been lined up for a Test return after having linked up with the squad for his first training of the tour at Lord's on Saturday. Boult also trained with the group at Edgbaston two days out of the second Test.
Santner had suffered a cut to his spinning finger during the intra-squad match, in the approach to the tour, and then aggravated his injury by playing the first Test at Lord's. Santner, who was the only frontline spinner in either team in the opening Test, had gone wicketless in 23 overs, conceding 68 runs. He served up eight full-tosses in that game, including a chest-high beamer, according to ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data, giving up 16 runs. Stead conceded that the cut to Santner's left index finger disrupted his rhythm.
"People probably would have seen him open up the piece on his finger again; he had quite a bit of blood on his pants," Stead said of Santner. "That came from the cut he originally had. We thought it had healed okay, but obviously we needed a little bit more time for that to happen and it definitely hampered his ability in the match as well."
New Zealand have two other left-arm fingerspinners in their squad to replace Santner - Ajaz Patel and Rachin Ravindra. Patel, himself, is working his way back into international cricket after a calf injury; he had last played Test cricket in February 2020. Ravindra, the Wellington batting allrounder, meanwhile, is uncapped in international cricket.
As for Williamson, this isn't the first time this year that he's dealing with an elbow complaint. He had earlier been ruled out of the ODI series against Bangladesh at home and subsequently missed the start of IPL 2021.
"His [Williamson's] elbow is still niggling him a wee bit," Stead said. "We've had some more treatment on that and we just want to make sure it's the best thing for him, playing in this match versus taking a bit more time to be ready and training the way he needs to train."
Stead, though, welcomed Boult back into the set-up, all but confirming his comeback. After the IPL was suspended, the left-arm seamer opted to return home to spend time with his family in Mount Maunganui rather than head straight to the UK along with the rest of the New Zealand contingent. Before the Lord's Test, Stead had indicated the turnaround for Edgbaston would be too tight for Boult but updated quarantine protocols have allowed him to train immediately after arriving which has advanced his preparations by a few days.
"Trent's back and available to be selected and it's likely we'll play him in this game as well," he said. "It's good news for us. Things did change when he got here or from the information we had initially. So, think it's the best thing for Trent to get out there, get the Dukes ball in his hand and show us what he's capable of."
With an eye on the forthcoming World Test Championship [WTC] final against India, which begins on June 18 at the Ageas Bowl, Stead reckoned that the rest of the attack could also be rotated. Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson all had solid workouts at Lord's, bowling 40 or more overs each across both innings, despite the entire third day's play being wiped out by a persistent drizzle. Matt Henry, Doug Bracewell and Southland's Jacob Duffy, who is also uncapped, are the potential seam-bowling replacements for the frontline quicks. Stead said that they would lock in their XI on Wednesday.
"They [bowlers] have all scrubbed up pretty well, but it doesn't necessarily mean they will play in the next match," Stead said. "With an eye to the [WTC] final we want to make sure the key bowlers who we think will take part in that game are fresh, raring to go and ready for that first ball of the match versus India.
"We've got a squad of 20 obviously. So, a lot of guys have played Test cricket before. Matt Henry is here, Daryl Mitchell is here, Doug Bracewell, Ajaz Patel…there're guys in and around the squad who've played for us in the past. So, again, we're having those discussions with them about what's best for them given training loads, playing loads and readiness for that match."
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo