Black Caps receive Southee boost
New Zealand can press on with Plan A for the first Investec Test against England after scans cleared frontline seamer Tim Southee to play at Lord's.
Southee limped out of the tour match against England Lions at Grace Road with a sore left toe two days ago and has since seen a specialist and undergone scans in London.
Without him, the Kiwis would have had to rely on their two left-arm seamers Trent Boult and Neil Wagner, who both impressed in the 0-0 stalemate against England in New Zealand two months ago, and fit-again Doug Bracewell.
Twenty-four-year-old Southee is their most tried-and-tested option, however, with 24 Tests under his belt and coach Mike Hesson was able to announce today that he will be available after all on Thursday.
"Tim's fine. It was very much a precautionary response really from us," he said.
"We sent him down to London for further investigation, and basically the result was as we hoped.
"He's had some treatment to his left toe, and we're very comfortable he'll be right for the first Test."
Wagner might have played in any case, as New Zealand's leading wicket-taker in the three recent draws.
He too has recovered from a minor toe injury and Hesson said: "It will be very hard to leave him out. Neil is very much in consideration to play."
Wagner could yet feature as part of a four-man seam attack, should New Zealand decide conditions mean they can sacrifice left-arm spinner Bruce Martin.
"Absolutely. That's an option," added Hesson. "Whoever is left out, it will be a tough decision."
One man who will be back at Lord's this week, having also played alongside captain Brendon McCullum and Southee among the current team in a draw on New Zealand's last visit, is Ross Taylor.
The Kiwis' former captain failed to reach his established standards with the bat in March, following his well-chronicled breakdown of relations with Hesson after McCullum replaced him in charge.
Yet the coach believes little can be read into Taylor's underperformance just three matches into the 29-year-old's comeback.
"You get a good delivery every now and then, and you miss out," Hesson said. "But Ross is a quality player, who averages over 40 in Test cricket. He's our best batsman. He knows the conditions well, and I expect him to have a big series."
Hesson acknowledges his team will have to make sure they handle the big occasion, the majority on their first Test appearance at the home of cricket.
He is confident they will prove up to the task.
"We've only got three who have played a Test match here. We've had a number of others who've played other forms of the game," he said.
"There's certainly a huge level of excitement there - no doubt about that.
"It will be a great experience, regardless of the result, but it will be reviewed a lot more fondly if we perform well.
"We're very much looking forward to having another crack at England, and hope we can put them under pressure again."