McCullum back injury worries New Zealand

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The Independent Online

New Zealand will nervously await the arrival of Brendon McCullum at breakfast this morning. Only then will the Black Caps get a true idea of whether their star player is fit enough to take a full part in the third Test starting in Nottingham today.

McCullum has been suffering from a back injury and the tourists are wary that it could affect his ability to keep wicket. The 26-year-old successfully came through practice yesterday and was named in a 12-man squad but back ailments are unpredictable and the New Zealand selectors will only feel confident should he wake up this morning showing no reaction to his exertions.

"Brendon is having a tough time with his back and we will make a decision on him in the morning," admitted Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain. "He is not in doubt to bat but there is a possibility that his back may not be up to keeping wicket, therefore we will have to consider making more changes. Gareth Hopkins is here as our second keeper, so if Brendon cannot keep he comes in."

McCullum's condition is ongoing and it flared up during the second Test at Old Trafford. The problem did not stop him playing in the practice match against Northamptonshire, where he batted and fielded at slip.

In an attempt to shore up their batting and level the three-Test series, the Black Caps have replaced James Marshall with Peter Fulton. Tim Southee is in the squad, too, and is expected to play ahead of Iain O'Brien.

There was much better news on Daniel Flynn, the 23-year-old batsman who lost two teeth after being hit in the face by a James Anderson bouncer in the at Old Trafford. Flynn has made four visits to a dental surgery, where he initially had top and bottom teeth removed. The top tooth has been replaced with a cap and he has had the nerve in another tooth killed too.

Even so he is expected to play at Trent Bridge today. "I have seen a lot of guys go through what Daniel has gone through and the biggest problem is a reluctance to get back out there," said Vettori. "But he wanted to play and bat at Old Trafford after being hit. We expect him to get some more short stuff in this Test – it is the nature of international cricket.

"Jacob Oram will go through it, too. England attacked him with the short stuff and he struggled and it will be no different for him. They both have to overcome that hurdle."

These are just two of the obstacles New Zealand have to overcome if they are to win in Nottingham. The biggest challenge is finishing off a game they have control of and not choking.

"We need to win a game like we lost to England to get rid of it [the team's mindset]," admitted Vettori. "Even if you look back at the Hamilton game against England, when we won, there was a portion of our second innings when it got a bit frantic. That is one of the only times when we have come through a patch like that and won but we have to put ourselves in that position again and do it properly."

Teams for the third Test

England have named the same line-up for five successive Test matches, the first time since 1884-85:


M P Vaughan (Yorkshire, captain)

A J Strauss (Middlesex)

A N Cook (Essex)

K P Pietersen (Hampshire)

I R Bell (Warwickshire)

P D Collingwood (Durham)

T R Ambrose (Warwickshire, wkt)

S C J Broad (Notts)

R J Sidebottom (Notts)

M S Panesar (Northants)

J M Anderson (Lancashire).

New Zealand (from): J M How, A J Redmond, R P L Taylor, B B McCullum (wkt), D R Flynn, J D P Oram, D L Vettori (capt), K D Mills, T G Southee, C S Martin, I E O'Brien, P G Fulton.

Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) & D B Hair (Aus)

Weather: Five-day forecast for Trent Bridge

Today: 19C, Partly cloudy, 2mph wind, 20 per cent chance of rain

Tomorrow: 19C, Partly cloudy, 5mph wind, 10 per cent chance of rain

Saturday: 18C, Partly cloudy, 6mph wind, 10 per cent chance of rain

Sunday: 19C, Partly cloudy, 6mph wind, 10 per cent chance of rain

Monday: 21C, Partly cloudy, 8mph wind, 10 per cent chance of rain