Northland's Tim Southee will make his much-anticipated return to cricket today when he plays for Northern Districts at his home ground in Whangarei in the Plunket Shield match against Wellington.
Southee missed the Black Caps' tour of South Africa, firstly for the birth of his first child and then a thumb injury.
It's hoped he will come through unscathed and be fit to play the three tests against England starting in Dunedin on March 6.
Before his injury, Southee had enjoyed an excellent last six months in international cricket before injuring his left thumb in a Plunket Shield match against Wellington at the Basin Reserve in December.
The 24-year-old needed surgery after he tore the ligaments in a thumb when he jammed it into the ground diving to field a ball. He spent two weeks in a cast and then time in a splint before some low-level bowling about five weeks after surgery.
He has been in and around the New Zealand cricket team in the past week as they monitor his progress but the biggest test will be how he goes in the four-day Plunket Shield match against the Wellington Firebirds.
Northern Districts' captain Brad Wilson says it's about time they played a match at Cobham Oval.
"We'd like to [play more]," said Wilson. "We [the Northlanders in the team] always look forward to coming up here and playing.
"The people up here are always welcoming, the food always lovely, just the little things that make it a great place to play."
The 27-year-old Wilson said he hoped to continue his strong form on the traditionally batter-friendly pitch in Whangarei, after struggling to score runs before Christmas.
"It's [Cobham Oval] always a good place to get runs, I always like to score runs up here, well it's good to score runs anywhere."
Wilson, who normally averages 31 in first-class cricket, has scored 244 runs across five innings at an average of just under 49 since the Plunket Shield resumed after a six week break.
In other games starting tomorrow, Otago host Auckland in Dunedin and Canterbury take on Central Districts in Rangiora.
Central Districts hold a 13-point lead over Otago with Northern Districts a further 20 points behind with two rounds remaining.
Northern Districts: Brad Wilson (c), Corey Anderson, Graeme Aldridge, Brent Arnel, Daniel Flynn, James Marshall, Daryl Mitchell, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Anurag Verma, Adam Wheater, Joseph Yovich.additional reporting APNZ