Cricket: Broken bottle costly for Bracewell

By Kris Shannon

The Black Caps celebrate a wicket during the first test against England in Dunedin. Photo /Getty Images
The Black Caps celebrate a wicket during the first test against England in Dunedin. Photo /Getty Images

The broken beer bottle which lacerated Doug Bracewell's foot may have seen him squeezed out of New Zealand's swollen seam bowling stocks.

Bracewell's injury has recovered insufficiently for him to be considered for the second ANZ test against England in Wellington on Thursday, with the Black Caps today naming an unchanged side.

An attempt yesterday by Bracewell to test the foot with running and bowling was abandoned, leaving the national selectors with a discussion lasting "a minute or two" before they opted to retain the players who earned a series-opening draw in Dunedin.

Bracewell, who injured the foot during a post-party clean-up before the first test, may have still missed out had he proved his fitness, considering Neil Wagner led New Zealand with seven wickets while filling the Central Districts seamer's boots at the University Oval.

Dropping Wagner after he took advantage of some poor shot selection to spark England's first innings collapse would have been harsh, while Tim Southee and Trent Boult are currently first choice.

Bracewell, 22, will be left to rest at home in Napier before possibly playing for his province in the Ford Trophy on Sunday in a bid to win selection for the third test at Eden Park.

But, however well the cut heals, Wagner will know another strong effort at the Basin Reserve should ensure he retains his place and will be the incumbent when New Zealand travel to England in May.

The South African ex-pat's eligibility was greeted with much fanfare last April but he was unproductive on his first tour three months later, the series sweep at the hands of the West Indies. Southee's absence gave Wagner another chance in his homeland earlier in the summer but he took only one wicket in the heavy second test defeat.

But a combination of familiar conditions and batting not befitting the world's second-ranked side may have provided the impetus for the Otago left-armer to translate his domestic form to the international stage - at Bracewell's expense.

Chris Martin was initially the odd man out in New Zealand's surfeit of seamers but the veteran may now not be the only one. Along with Wagner, the Black Caps could in future call upon the services of the injured Mitchell McClenaghan after his breakout performances in the shorter forms of England's tour.

With Southee and Boult establishing themselves as the preferred new ball partnership, a fit-again Bracewell - who has failed to take more than three wickets in a match in New Zealand's last three series - will have a battle on his hands to make the team when the Black Caps opt for their current balance.

Coach Mike Hesson hinted he was likely to stick with three quicks and a spinner for Thursday's match, which leaves the onus on that four-man group to soak up overs while remaining a threat.

"With playing four bowlers, your bowlers have to sustain pace over a long period of time," Hesson said. "So we're after guys that have that ability to keep running in. With three seamers and one spinner, that's part of the job description now."

Wagner certainly fits that bill, and even in his unproductive first taste of test cricket he always showed an ability to trundle in and consistently pose problems. That is also an area in which Bracewell is occasionally deficient, with his effectiveness waning once the ball gets old or if things aren't going to plan.

Wagner will have another chance to stake his claim on what Hesson described as a "good cricket wicket" in Wellington. His success may be enough to swear Bracewell off glass bottles for life.

Test careers of New Zealand's top four seamers:

Tim Southee, 24 - 22 matches, 66 wickets at 37

Trent Boult, 23 - 11 matches, 32 wickets at 32

Doug Bracewell, 22 - 15 matches, 46 wickets at 32

Neil Wagner, 26 - 4 matches, 12 wickets at 44

- APNZ

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