New Zealand on Tuesday drafted in Kane Williamson to strengthen their batting line-up for the second Test against the West Indies, which will be played on a Wellington wicket tailor-made for bowlers.
Captain Brendon McCullum confirmed on the eve of the Test that Williamson, a late withdrawal from the drawn first match in Dunedin because of a thumb injury, was fit again. He will replace Aaron Redmond at number three in the order.
McCullum suggested leg spinner Ish Sodhi will play, leaving New Zealand with only three seamers despite the short turnaround after the Black Caps’ bowlers were forced to send down more than 200 overs without a break.
“I wonder whether if three can’t get it done whether four will,” said McCullum, leaving open the question over whether Neil Wagner or Brendon Bracewell will join Tim Southee and Trent Boult.
“I think with the all-rounder (Corey Anderson) as well we probably do have enough for three ... so we’ve just got to work out the balance of what three that will be.”
With the Basin Reserve wicket described as being as green as it has ever been, McCullum sees no choice other than to bowl first.
“If the coin falls the right way then we’ll get first use of it,” he said of Wednesday’s all-important toss.
“I’m confident our bowlers will bowl that natural fuller length and hopefully we’ll present a tough challenge to the West Indies batsmen.”
New Zealand were left frustrated in Dunedin, where they outplayed the West Indies for the first three days before letting them off the hook as their bowlers tired and the Test ended in a draw after rain on the last day Saturday.
It was a result that buoyed the tourists after New Zealand racked up 609-9 declared. The tourists were dismissed for just 213 in their first innings before compiling 507 in their second innings, with Darren Bravo making a double-century.
“We fought back really well, which was very pleasing,” West Indies coach Ottis Gibson said.
“It gives us more confidence going into the second Test and we are a more settled group. A few guys still have sniffles and colds, but we’re full of confidence from the way we fought from the second innings in Dunedin.”
Like McCullum, Gibson is also wrestling with the make-up of his bowling attack, suggesting a two-spinner option is possible as his pace options are limited.
“Shannon Gabriel did not have a good (first) Test. He did not bowl very well, but we believe in him, that’s why we picked him,” Gibson said of the back-up to bowling spearhead Tino Best.
“He’s shown he can be a quality performer, but we have to give him and Sheldon Cottrell all the support and give them the confidence they need to perform for us.”
West Indies captain Darren Sammy played a limited role as a seam bowler in the first Test because of a leg muscle injury. He will undergo a late fitness test but is expected to start.
The third and final Test starts in Hamilton on December 19.