Daniel Vettori remains in doubt for January's two-test series against world No1 South Africa as he recovers from a hernia operation and an injection into his troublesome left Achilles tendon.
The former New Zealand captain says he has been troubled by injuries to those areas for the past six to eight months. He chose to fix them now with a view to being fit to play South Africa and home and away against England.
"I'm targeting the Twenty20 match for Northern Districts against Canterbury on November 30 as my return," Vettori says. "I would love to be able to bowl four comfortable overs there and then test myself in the four-dayer [also against Canterbury at Hamilton's Seddon Park] starting December 2."
New Zealand has a three-day warm-up match against a South African XI in Paarl starting December 28. The first test starts on January 2 in Cape Town.
"If I am selected to tour South Africa, I want to have played at least one four-dayer to prove my fitness," Vettori says. "If I make it back, I want to give more to the team. It has been demoralising just hobbling around. I've struggled to run.
"I had the hernia operation last Friday [November 9]. I'm hoping it will settle shortly so I can go running. The idea is the surgeon put in some mesh to reinforce my lower stomach which should alleviate the majority of the pain. It's meant to be pain-free after about three weeks."
Vettori also had a cortisone and saline solution injected to mitigate the pain in his Achilles tendon. He says it is now a case of "hope for the best". Adding to the logistics, Vettori's wife Mary is due to give birth to their third child in January.
The 33-year-old remains New Zealand's most experienced test cricketer with 112 caps and the country's most successful spinner with 360 wickets at 34.42. Before the first test started against Sri Lanka last night, only six other specialist spinners had played for New Zealand during Vettori's almost 16-year tenure. With 4516 runs at 30.10, he is edging towards becoming just the second test cricketer after India's Kapil Dev to make 5000 runs and take 400 wickets.
However, South Africa has been a stumbling block. Vettori has played just five tests against the Proteas at home (in 2006 and 2007) and has struggled to contain them. He averages 38.57 with the bat but has taken just seven wickets at 63.85 with the ball. It reflects a wider trend. South Africa is the only team New Zealand has never beaten in a test series.By Andrew Alderson Email Andrew