New Zealand have picked Matt Henry as a replacement for Tim Southee, who is expecting the birth of his child, in the XI for the first Test against West Indies in Wellington, which starts from Friday. Henry was picked over Auckland fast bowler Lockie Ferguson, although captain Kane Williamson admitted the team management had considered the prospect of selecting Ferguson, who had been called up as cover for Southee last week. New Zealand had also added George Worker to their ranks once Southee's unavailability was confirmed, although Worker does not find a place in the XI. The home team will have only one debutant on Friday, as Tom Blundell steps into the wicketkeeper's slot in place of the injured BJ Watling.
Henry last played a Test for New Zealand against South Africa in March this year, taking five wickets in the game.
"He's been playing well for a long time and hasn't had the opportunities that he's deserved. He's a different bowler to Lockie and has been bowling with good pace, does tend to move the ball well and it's exciting for Matt," Williamson said. "He's been waiting for an opportunity and doing all the right things, and performed well in our last Test match. He was outstanding."
Williamson said the team had considered the option of picking Ferguson, who has shown great form in domestic cricket over the last month. Ferguson took a 12-for against Otago in a Plunket Shield fixture and then picked up seven wickets for New Zealand A in the tour match against the West Indians, including a five-for in the first innings.
"We did think about it. You're always looking at the balance of your attack. Lockie's been playing superbly well and he's a really exciting talent. It's always a tough decision."
Uncapped wicketkeeper Tom Blundell is also set to make his debut after he was added to the squad as BJ Watling's replacement. "Closer to the time, like Thursday, I'd probably get a few more nerves," Blundell said. "At the moment, I'm just treating it like another game, as cliched as it sounds."
On Wednesday, New Zealand had added Worker to the Test squad for the first time, on the basis of his first-class form. In nine first-class matches this year, Worker has scored 737 runs at an average of 49.13. He has not yet represented New Zealand in Tests, but has played six limited-overs international matches. He made his debut in a T20 against Zimbabwe in October 2015.
"Obviously there are things more important than cricket and we support Tim and his decision to stay with his family right now," selector Gavin Larsen said. "George will join the Test squad for the first time on the back of his form in First Class cricket over the past couple of seasons."
Coming off a series in Zimbabwe that was played primarily on slow pitches, West Indies have practiced with just the solitary warm-up game. Three days ahead of the first Test on December 1, the Basin Reserve surface in Wellington was covered with grass, almost indistinguishable from the rest of the outfield.
*0355 GMT. The copy was updated after the announcement of New Zealand's playing XI for the first Test