New Zealand have gone back to a familiar but inconsistent batsman in Mathew Sinclair as they attempt to challenge Australia in Friday's opening Test in Wellington. Sinclair, 34, is a chance for his sixth return to the XI after coming into the 13-man squad for Neil Broom on the back of a strong domestic season for Central Districts.
Sinclair has been elevated to cover for the top order and is a strange choice given the assignment is against the world's No. 3-ranked side. Sinclair scored two double-hundreds at the start of his career, but he played the last of his 32 Tests in March 2008. In eight matches against Australia he has managed only one half-century and an average of 14.13.
"We felt we needed a cover top-order batter, rather than cover for our middle order, so Neil is a little unlucky in that respect," the coach Mark Greatbatch said. "[Neil's] form is not quite as good as it was in February."
Sinclair's best chance is if the selectors lose faith in his Central Districts team-mate Peter Ingram, the No.3, who was dropped during the one-day series after limited-overs returns of 2, 0, 40, 14 and 5. Sinclair, who has 638 Plunket Shield runs at 58.00 this season, appears more likely to come into serious consideration for the second game if there are problems at the top at the Basin Reserve.
The doubts over New Zealand's limited batting options mean Daniel Vettori will enter at six after doing the job in the past two Tests. Vettori, who is usually a No.8, posted 134, his fifth century, against Pakistan in Napier and added 10 and 13 against Bangladesh.
"It gives a very good balance to our side," Greatbatch said of Vettori's promotion. "It enables us to play the five bowlers we are looking for, whether that is four seamers and one spinner, or three seamers and two spinners. We have the ability to be flexible."
New Zealand have a developing side and Greatbatch's initial aim for both Tests is to take them into a fifth day. "It's a great challenge for some of them to go up against the best side in the world," he said. "We need to compete every day and fight hard, and smart. If we can take Australia to five days we are a chance."
Both Greatbatch and Vettori are hoping the side can build on its dead-rubber one-day win on Saturday during the Test series. "Anytime you beat Australia it's a great feeling," Vettori said. "It gives us a bit of confidence going into the Tests and proceeding towards a World Cup."
New Zealand squad Tim McIntosh, B.J. Watling, Peter Ingram, Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill, Daniel Vettori (capt), Mathew Sinclair, Brendon McCullum (wk), Daryl Tuffey, Jeetan Patel, Tim Southee, Chris Martin, Brent Arnel.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo