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Cricket | South Africa

Tim Southee © Gallo Images

'Southee absence big loss for NZ'

Tim Southee’s injury-enforced withdrawal from New Zealand’s test team for the tour of South Africa was a blow to the team but would provide an opportunity for another player to stake their claim for a test place, Black Caps skipper Brendon McCullum said on Thursday.

Southee was ruled out of the tour after suffering a thumb injury which will see the paceman out of cricket for six to eight weeks.

The 24-year-old Southee has taken 65 wickets in 21 tests and his withdrawal leaves a gaping hole in New Zealand’s attack but McCullum was confident that the team would be able to overcome the loss.

“Tim has been our number one bowler in test cricket for the last little while. He is a real leader of the attack so it is going to be a huge loss. Our thoughts are with him because I know that he had a keen eye on this series to test himself out against some of the world’s best,” McCullum told a news conference in Durban.

“What it does do is give someone else an opportunity and hopefully they will be able to fulfil the role that he (Southee) has done so well for us of late,” he added.

New Zealand will play two tests against South Africa with the first scheduled to start on January 2 in Cape Town but their focus is currently on the three-match Twenty20 (T20) series which starts on Friday at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead on Friday.

McCullum, who was only recently appointed at New Zealand’s captain, said that he was confident that his relatively inexperienced squad would be up to the challenge of beating the Proteas in their own backyard.

“There is a high level of excitement in the group. I think the guys have prepared really well. We had a good warm-up game the other day and we got to try out some combinations and see some guys in action. Tomorrow is obviously going to be a step up but I’m really looking forward to it and see it as a huge opportunity for this team,” he said.

New Zealand have five uncapped players in their squad, batting allrounders Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham and Corey Anderson, left-arm quick Mitchell McClenaghan and wicketkeeper/batsman Derek de Boorder but McCullum said that he was pleased with the way that they had assimilated into the team.

“They are enthusiastic and they posses some really good skills. They have fitted into this team exceptionally well and it is quite nice to have brought them in at the same time so that they can find their feet as one rather than trying to feel their way in their own.

“From our point of view there are many unknowns but we see that as exciting and an opportunity for those guys rather than worrying about what we are going to get from them. Hopefully that bit of spontaneity that the new guys will bring will add a bit of punch to our team,” he explained.

New Zealand are regarded as underdogs for the T20 series but McCullum said that the very nature of the shortest form of the game gave his team a chance of causing an upset.

“The beauty of Twenty20 is the unknown that you go in to. We are confident that we have got the right balance in our team to be able to put up a competitive total and we think that we have the right bowlers to be able to put South Africa under pressure,” he explained.


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