Kiwis wait on Bond and Astle

Shane Bond and Nathan Astle will be in the New Zealand Test squad which travels to England at the end of this month, providing they pass fitness tests.

The New Zealand coach, John Bracewell, named the pair in his 14-man squad for the three-Test series despite the fact neither has made a full return from injury.

Bond, the fast bowler who has been recovering from a stress fracture in his back, did feature for New Zealand A in the opening one-day game of their series against Sri Lanka A.

Astle, the all-rounder who is coming back from a knee operation, has not played for New Zealand since last October's Test series in India.

Also facing a fitness test is the fast bowler Daryl Tuffey, who missed the final Test against South Africa in Wellington last month with a knee injury and deep bruising to his thigh.

Bracewell has opted to take only one specialist spin bowler, the left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori, and has handed Kyle Mills a place ahead of Michael Mason, who struggled against the South Africans in Wellington as the tourists won by six wickets to square the series 1-1.

One player who can count himself unlucky to miss out is Mathew Sinclair, who made 74 on his recall to the side for the final Test and has been in prolific form for New Zealand A.

Bracewell admitted that narrowing the squad down to 14 players had been an extremely difficult process for the selectors. He said: "There are a number of players who have performed with distinction at international level or New Zealand A level and some who have performed very well at domestic level who can justifiably consider themselves unlucky not to be selected for this tour to England.

"Traditionally at this time of year in England, the wickets are fresh, grass-covered and conducive to seam and swing bowling," Bracewell added. "For this reason we have opted for one specialist spin bowler only.

"Therefore Kyle Mills comes into the squad, giving us another seam bowling option with his ability to take the ball away from right-handed batsmen."

NEW ZEALAND Test squad: *S P Fleming (capt), N J Astle, S E Bond, C L Cairns, C S Martin, K D Mills, ÝB B McCullum, C D McMillan, J D P Oram, M H W Papps, M H Richardson, S B Styris, D R Tuffey, D L Vettori.