The third test between New Zealand and South Africa at Seddon Park on Saturday could become the Match of the Men Who Weren’t There.
Fast bowler Tim Southee is the latest withdrawal‚ having reported pain after the second test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington and being ruled out with a torn a hamstring on Thursday.
Southee joins batsman Ross Taylor‚ who was removed from the equation for the series after tearing a calf in the first test at University Oval in Dunedin.
The Kiwi invalids could be joined by left-arm fast bowler Trent Boult‚ who missed the second test with a vaguely described “upper leg injury” and has yet to be passed fit for Saturday.
Not that the South Africans don’t have their problems.
Quinton de Kock injured a tendon in his right index finger in Wellington and will need to play with specially moulded padding or not at all.
Should he be ruled out – the prospects of that happening seemed more probable than possible on Thursday – Heinrich Klaassen will make his debut.
“We had an X-ray done to exclude a fracture‚ and thankfully that was clear‚” South Africa’s team manager‚ Mohammed Moosajee‚ said.
“He still complained of pain and discomfort in the finger so we had a scan done in Hamilton on Wednesday which revealed tendon damage to the last digit of the index finger.
“We will make a late call on his availability on Friday after he undergoes a fitness test with protective strapping to see if he will be able to bat or keep wicket.
“Either way‚ he is going to need a protracted period of recovery which will take between four to six weeks.”
That will hit the headlines in India‚ where De Kock is expected to report for duty with the Delhi Daredevils early next month.
“There is every likelihood of him missing out on the IPL (Indian Premier League) because of the expected recovery time‚” Moosajee said.
“Being a wicketkeeper‚ every time he catches the ball there is strain on the finger and it makes it difficult to allow sufficient time to recover.
“If he doesn’t have the four to six weeks’ recovery time further activity could aggravate the injury and it could even jeopardise his participation in the Champions Trophy (in England in June) and the full tour to England.”
Minutes before Moosajee spoke‚ Vernon Philander held his own press conference with his left ankle strapped. Ominously?
“There’s been no issues yet‚” Philander said about an ongoing issue that was flagged before South Africa came on tour. “Hopefully I can go for another six months.”
What with Morne Morkel freshly returned to fitness from a bulging disc‚ Dale Steyn still recovering from a broken shoulder and Kagiso Rabada looking more in need of a rest with every spell he bowls‚ Philander’s continued presence is vital for South Africa in a year that includes test series against England and India and‚ early in 2018‚ Australia.
The Seddon Park pitch had been shorn on Thursday of some of the bright-green grass it sported a day earlier‚ and is being billed as a surface that will offer turn and take the sting out of fast bowling.
But Philander took match figures of 10/114 to help South Africa win by nine wickets in three days at this ground in 2012.
The visitors‚ who triumphed by eight wickets with two days to spare in Wellington on this trip to take a 1-0 lead into the last test‚ will bank on Philander to do something similar. Him or Morkel or Rabada‚ or even left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj‚ who took 6/40 in the second innings on a Basin Reserve pitch that didn’t assist the spinners.
South Africa‚ then‚ are favourites going into Saturday’s game – regardless of who does or doesn’t feature in the XIs.
But it seems the weather could get in the way of the visitors stamping their authority on the series.
Rain‚ ranging from a 30% to a 90% chance‚ has been forecast for all five days of the match.