New Zealand bowler Southee to make own call on fitness

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New Zealand bowler Tim Southee juggles the ball during the first cricket test match between Australia and New Zealand in Brisbane November 6, 2015. REUTERS/Patrick Hamilton

PERTH (Reuters) – New Zealand pace bowler Tim Southee will make the decision about whether he is fit enough to play in the second test against Australia starting on Friday, skipper Brendon McCullum said on Thursday.

Southee suffered an irritated disc and was unable to bowl in Australia’s second innings in the first test, which the tourists lost by a thumping 208 runs on Monday.

The 26-year-old, whose new-ball partnership with Trent Boult has been a key factor in the Black Caps success of the last two years, will bowl at training later on Thursday.

“We’ll speak to him throughout the practice and have a yarn to him later on,” McCullum told ABC radio at the WACA.

“Tim’s a strong leader in this group and he’s an absolute champion within the set-up and we’ll give him as long as he needs but ultimately he’ll be very, very honest with his assessment.

“He’ll do what’s right for the team and hopefully that is that he can take his place in the line-up because he’s an outstanding bowler and an influential member for us.”

New Zealand will be forced to make at least one change from their team for the first test even if Southee is fit, after all-rounder James Neesham was ruled out of the rest of the series after also suffering a back injury.

Uncapped left-arm bowler Mitchell McClenaghan was brought in to the squad as a replacement for Neesham, while his fellow paceman Neil Wagner was flown over from New Zealand as cover for Southee.

The Black Caps also have young pace bowler Matt Henry in the squad, who is likely to join Boult and Doug Bracewell in the pace attack if Southee is ruled out.

All-rounder Mitchell Santner would be a like-for-like replacement for Neesham but McCullum said New Zealand were considering playing four quicks and spinner Mark Craig on what is likely to be a fast and bouncy WACA wicket.

“Neil Wagner was outstanding for us when he was operating in that third seamer role and he’s been an integral member of this team in its turnaround as a test line-up,” McCullum added.

“If he’s called upon to step in this series, we have total confidence in him.”

New Zealand are unbeaten in their last seven test series but McCullum said the Black Caps knew they would have to up their game from Brisbane to keep this one alive going into the third match in Adelaide.

“We know that we can be a lot better than we were in the Gabba,” he said.

“We’ve played some outstanding cricket over the last period of time. We were off the beat at the Gabba, but that doesn’t mean we will be here.”

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; Editing by John O’Brien)

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