New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori is on the verge of making a dramatic return to Test cricket as the Black Caps bid for a series-leveling win against England at Headingley.
Former captain Vettori has not played a Test for nearly a year, mainly because of Achilles trouble, and was only originally selected for the one-day leg of this tour.
However, a calf injury suffered by his fellow left-arm spinner Bruce Martin during New Zealand’s thumping 170-run first Test defeat at Lord’s in London saw Vettori make an earlier-than-expected arrival in England.
The 34-year-old, who bowled in the Headingley nets on Wednesday, is vying for a place with seamer Doug Bracewell, not selected at Lord’s.
Recent experience suggests Yorkshire’s headquarters, where the second and final Test of this series starts today, is only a seamers’ paradise when conditions are overcast, making it important to field at least one specialist spin bowler.
If Vettori is included, he will become New Zealand’s single most-capped Test player, topping the mark of 111 appearances he shares with Stephen Fleming.
Vettori’s record shows 112 Tests but one of those was for an ICC World XI against Australia in 2005.
“It’s exciting seeing Dan around the changing room and training with us again,” Black Caps left-arm seamer Neil Wagner said on Wednesday.
Vettori is New Zealand’s second-most successful Test bowler behind Richard Hadlee with 360 wickets.
New Zealand have confirmed captain Brendon McCullum will keep wicket at Headingley after BJ Watling was ruled out with a knee injury suffered during the first Test.
McCullum, who deputized for Watling at Lord’s, gave up keeping in Tests because of a back complaint in 2010.
Watling’s absence has seen New Zealand announce they will play an extra batsman at Headingley in Martin Guptill, who has experience of English conditions from his time with Derbyshire.
The Black Caps will need all the batting nous they can muster after collapsing to 68 all out in their second innings at Lord’s in the face of seven for 44 from England seamer Stuart Broad.
England did not make as many as they would have liked at Lord’s, but it is how New Zealand bat at Headingley that is likely to determine the outcome of the match and series.
“I totally believe in this group of players and just because of one poor batting performance it’s not panic stations,” McCullum insisted after a defeat at Lord’s made all the worse for New Zealand by the fact they had been in the match until, in the words of their captain, “an hour of madness.”
James Anderson, who at Lord’s became only the fourth England bowler to take 300 Test wickets, is in line to overtake Fred Trueman’s mark of 307 on the late Yorkshire fast bowling great’s home ground.
If the sight of a seamer from arch-rivals Lancashire surpassing Trueman in the record books is too much for some locals, they can take heart from the inclusion of Yorkshire batsmen Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root in the England side, although their county colleague Tim Bresnan may miss out again if fast bowler Steven Finn retains his place.
Both Bairstow and Root have yet to make a Test hundred — something their most loyal supporters would love to see change in Leeds.
Root currently looks the more likely, having made a composed 71 at Lord’s and the 22-year-old is relishing the prospect of his first Test at Headingley.