Southee out, de Kock in doubt for third Test

The third Test between New Zealand and South Africa begins in Hamilton on Saturday.

Tim Southee is suffering from a hamstring injury.   -  AP

New Zealand and South Africa were both hit by injuries on Thursday, two days from the start of the third Test, with Tim Southee ruled out and Quinton de Kock in doubt. New Zealand bowling spearhead Southee has a torn hamstring while de Kock is nursing a ligament injury to the index finger on his right hand.

Southee’s injury left New Zealand sweating on the fitness of his new-ball partner Trent Boult who missed the second Test, won by South Africa by eight wickets, because of leg soreness. Boult is in the squad for the third Test and has bowled lightly in the nets this week, but has yet to pass a final fitness test, although a team spokesman said there would be no replacement called up for Southee.

The spokesman said Southee had suffered soreness towards the end of the second Test which has been confirmed as a hamstring injury. “While only a minor tear, he will not be fit for the upcoming match beginning [on] Saturday,” he said.

South African team management said a decision would be made Friday on whether influential wicketkeeper-batsman de Kock would play. He injured the finger on the final day of the second Test. Initial x-rays ruled out a fracture but continued discomfort has revealed ligament damage which could require several weeks rest.

If de Kock is ruled out, Heinrich Klaasen is expected to be his replacement in what will be his debut Test. South Africa leads the three-Test series 1-0.

Complicating South Africa's team selection with the question mark over de Kock was the state of the pitch. South Africa had called in Dane Piedt as a fresh spinner before Keshav Maharaj and JP Duminy performed with distinction in Wellington but expectations of a spinner's paradise in Hamilton appeared to be unfounded.

The pitch has a typical New Zealand grass cover, which seemed at odds with coach Mike Hesson's claim that it would be unwise to do anything that would further assist South Africa's impressive seam bowling attack.

'Good wicket'

His South African counterpart, Russell Domingo, was pleased with what he saw at Seddon Park, despite having a swag of spinners at his disposal. "Everyone was saying it was going to be a dustbowl, but it doesn't look like a dustbowl at the moment... it looks a good wicket," he said, but adding he did not think South Africa had an advantage.

"I don't think we've ever had a game against New Zealand that we've gone in thinking 'we've got this'," he said. "We're on top of them, but the sides are so evenly matched, we know we're going to have a tough challenge."

New Zealand has done some serious soul searching since its Wellington humiliation when it was crushed by spinners on a seamers wicket. Opener Jeet Raval, one of the few to distinguish himself, contributing 80 of its second innings 171, maintained the drawn first Test in Dunedin showed there was not much between the two sides.

But both batsmen and bowlers had to share the blame for the second Test capitulation, he said.

"It's about being better for long periods of time. If you look at the batting and bowling sides, we can both do better," said Raval.

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