England v New Zealand: Guptill & Vettori would strengthen Kiwis
England v New Zealand: The Black Caps could be a strong outfit come the second Test, with replacements in crucial positions
England will face a New Zealand side that will not only be smarting from defeat but also conceivably stronger come the second Test at Headingley on Friday.
Injuries to BJ Watling and Bruce Martin have left New Zealand searching for replacements in two crucial positions – wicketkeeper and specialist spinner – with only a four-day interlude between the two matches.
Top-order batsman Martin Guptill, New Zealand’s player of the year in 2012, is being lined up to replace wicketkeeper Watling, who suffered a knee injury during England’s second innings last week.
Brendon McCullum, although he is reluctant due to long standing back injuries as a result of keeping wicket for his country in the past, should take the gloves.
The Test skipper stepped in to fill Watling’s shoes at Lord’s, following the injury but there are other alternatives – thanks to the limited-overs squad’s arrival this week ahead of the Natwest Series and the Champions Trophy.
One-day squad member Luke Ronchi or 21-year-old Tom Latham, who is in the Test squad, could potentially be selected for Friday’s final Test.
Referring to Guptill, McCullum said: “He comes into the reckoning. We’ve obviously got to assess BJ as well and see how he’s travelling for the next game and look at our options there.
“Whether that means Tom Latham comes in and bats at seven and takes the gloves, or I bat down at number seven and take the gloves and we’re afforded the luxury, I guess, of playing another batsman at six, there’s plenty of different options to look at.”
However, it seems unlikely that New Zealand will give a debut to either Latham or Ronchi, ahead of what is a series decider as neither of the uncapped-duo is renowned for their batting prowess.
McCullum and head coach Mike Hesson will be desperate to square the series in Leeds, having out-played England for the majority of the four Tests both here and in New Zealand in March.
The Black Caps said they will not call up anyone from outside the Test squad until they assess the conditions.
A New Zealand spokesperson said: “At this stage, we are not bringing anyone into the Test squad. But the ODI players are arriving over the next couple of days and Daniel Vettori will be here tomorrow.
“[Coach] Mike [Hesson] will have a look at the conditions in Headingley and has the option of bringing Daniel in if he thinks a spinner will be needed there.”
Veteran spinner Vettori, whose 112-Test career has seen him collect 360 wickets, will certainly enhance the team’s chances should he replace Martin.
Left-arm spinner Martin, 33, injured his calf and has flown back home and though the two twirlers share an eerily similar bowling action that is where the parallels end.
Former skipper Vettori will not only be able to tie up an end with the ball, allowing seam trio Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and Tim Southee to probe away at the other, but the 34-year-old’s batting will beef up another department, too.
Should Vettori, who has scored six Test hundreds, be selected for his first Test match in nearly a year after long absence from the game due to injury and Guptill replace Watling, New Zealand – on paper, at least – will be far stronger with the pair’s added experience.
Both Vettori and Guptill have had to endure carrying their country in the past but should enjoy the prospect of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their country’s emerging talents, such as Boult, Wagner and batsman Kane Williamson.
New Zealand may be 1-0 down in the series but they will know they have a fighting chance of punching above their weight, once again.