New Zealand's hopes of clinching a Test series win against Pakistan were dealt a serious blow yesterday when leading bowler Shane Bond was ruled out of the remaining two matches with an abdominal tear. The 34-year-old paceman, on his Test comeback after a two-year absence, suffered some discomfort after his man-of-the-match display in the 32-run win in the series opener in Dunedin last week.
An ultrasound revealed a tear, meaning the Black Caps will go into tomorrow's second Test in Wellington without their main strike bowler. "Because I've had an injury there before, I've had aches and pains there for a long time," said Bond, who took eight wickets for 153 runs in the series-opening win. "When you're going into a Test with four bowlers you just want for your own piece of mind to know that everything is fine.
"During the Test match itself it was fine. I just wanted to get it checked out to make sure I wasn't going to let the team down and got a bit of a shock so I'm really disappointed." There was better news regarding Iain O'Brien, who dislocated the middle finger of his right hand during the final session at the University Oval last week. The 33-year-old bowler does not have any fractures in his hand and is confident he will be able to play a full part in the Test.
O'Brien took two wickets in Dunedin once the finger had been put back in place and was not expecting the injury to affect his delivery in Wellington either, although he is likely to wear protection when fielding. He explained: "It shouldn't affect me letting go of the ball. It's if it comes back at me that could cause me some problems. Then just picking the ball up and throwing it in the field I might have to do some work on that and see where it's at."
With Bond ruled out, O'Brien is going to have a key role to play at his home ground, particularly given his ability to bowl into the wind that often whistles around the Basin Reserve, which will become just the 11th ground in the world to host 50 Tests this week. O'Brien said: "It's one of the things I do bowling into the wind but there's no real difference between other places (and Wellington). If it's windy it's windy and that's just part of it.
"There were a couple of decent breezes in Dunedin and it was good for me to stand up and bowl into it. It's a different deck at the Basin so lengths will change. "It's a bit bouncier deck than we've just played on so we may see a few more short balls which should upset a couple of their batters." A replacement for Bond will be brought into the squad - possibly Tim Southee - but the fast bowler's absence could see Daryl Tuffey make his first Test start in five years.
Wet weather has hampered both teams' preparations, forcing them to practice indoors for the past two days. Pakistan's Misbah-ul-Haq lamented the bad weather after it stopped him getting valuable time outdoors to adjust to the New Zealand conditions following his arrival from Pakistan. The 35-year-old batsman, who has been playing domestic cricket, is expected to go straight into the side to improve the slip fielding - five catches were dropped in the first Test - and bolster the inexperienced batting line-up.
"You can't help the weather. Whatever you have you just have to get the benefit from that," he said. "That is always a problem for Asian players when they come here because there's a bit more bounce and pace (in the wickets). I'm seeing the ball well and I'm feeling good but when you are playing in different conditions you have to concentrate more." * PA