Shane Watson's chances of playing the second Test in Hamilton looked promising after he had a strong workout during a batting session in the Seddon Park nets on Thursday. Watson appeared unencumbered by the hip strain that kept him out of the win in Wellington, driving and pulling with full power against Clint McKay and a group of local bowlers.
Should Watson prove his fitness it will mean the axe for Phillip Hughes, who blazed to an unbeaten 86 as Australia chased down 106 to win the first Test at the Basin Reserve. Michael Hussey said Hughes would not be fazed by making way for Watson and the Australians were confident that Hughes would become a full-time member of the Test side in the future.
"He's a great young guy," Hussey said. "I think he just loves being around the group at the moment. He is so young, there's so much time for him. All you can say is keep churning out the runs for New South Wales and when he gets his chance to play for Australia, keep showing everyone that he is good enough. I'm sure his opportunity is going to come up, where he'll make that position his own at some stage."
Hughes took a shine to the New Zealand pace attack in the second innings in Wellington, where the home bowlers took only five wickets for the match. James Franklin has been added to the New Zealand squad to replace the injured Daryl Tuffey and with some rain around in Hamilton two days out from the Test, the hosts faced a tough call on whether to use Franklin or the second spinner Jeetan Patel.
New Zealand lacked a spearhead in Wellington, where Chris Martin struggled for impact and his new-ball partner Tim Southee failed to take a wicket. The loss of Shane Bond and Iain O'Brien to Test retirement in the past few months has been a blow for New Zealand but Simon Katich, who saw plenty of the seamers in his innings of 79 and 18 not out, said there were still challenges for Australia's top order.
"There's no doubt those two are big losses, Bond with his pace but also O'Brien, he has bowled well against us in the past and he was able to bowl at a lively pace and moved the ball," Katich said. "Both those guys are big losses to their attack. But their guys posed problems for us the other day. We had the best of the conditions batting first, there was a bit of hard work to be done early."
New Zealand must also decide on what to do with their batting line-up, with Peter Ingram under pressure having failed in both innings at the Basin Reserve. The veteran Mathew Sinclair and the teenager Kane Williamson are in the mix to come in to the side, although the conditions closer to Saturday will help determine the balance of the team.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo