New Zealand will test critical elements of their World Cup armoury in their three-match Chappell-Hadlee one-day series against Australia that starts on Friday.
Thirteen of the 15 members of New Zealand’s World Cup squad will be engaged in the series, most notably recalled fast bowler Daryl Tuffey, who will most likely play his first one-day international in two years in the opening match at Wellington.
In an Australian injury scare on Thursday, X-rays cleared fast bowler Brett Lee of a serious ankle injury that might have jeopardised his part in Australia’s pending World Cup campaign. Lee rolled an ankle during a training exercise but X-rays cleared the Australian pace spearhead of a fracture or other serious injury.
He is likely to miss Friday's match but could return for later matches in Auckland on Sunday and Hamilton on Tuesday. “He would be a loss,” Australian captain Michael Hussey said. “He's Australia's third highest wicket-taker (in one-day internationals). He’s good with the new ball and he gets wickets.”
New Zealand performed poorly in the recent limited-overs tri-series in Australia, losing all the four matches they played against Australia. Besides, they lost two of their four games to Andy Flintoff's Englishmen who eventually won the tournament.
If New Zealand are unable to lift themselves in their home series, to match an Australian team depleted by the withdrawal of Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist, their confidence ahead of the World Cup will be low.
Coach John Bracewell picked the best Cup squad available to him, though several of his most experienced players are out of form or lack match play. Tuffey's was the only contentious selection and his recall may become more controversial if he fails to show form in this series.
Tuffey hasn't played international cricket since February 2005 and his last appearances included a notorious 14-ball over against Australia when he lost control of his length, line and run-up. Bracewell said Tuffey's call-up was recommended by “a majority” of NZ first-class coaches.
Ponting on cortisone injections
Melbourne: Australian captain Ricky Ponting is trying hard to be in shape for the World Cup by taking cortisones injections to ease the inflammation in his spine and avoid a surgery. Ponting said he had three cortisone injections in his spine on Wednesday. “It's been something that has been bothering me a lot through the summer,” he said.