By Niall Anderson in Sydney
They were pummeled in Perth and mauled in Melbourne, and now in the build-up to their third and final test in Sydney, the Black Caps are literally sick and tired of their tour of Australia.
With captain Kane Williamson, batsman Henry Nicholls and all-rounder Mitchell Santner all missing training this afternoon due to flu-like symptoms, and their senior seamers on limited workloads to manage fatigue, the Black Caps have potentially stumbled into a situation more lopsided than their 296 and 247-run defeats in Perth and Melbourne respectively.
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The uncertainty was encapsulated in Tom Latham's pre-match press conference, where he uttered "fingers crossed" and "up in the air" four times apiece as he tried to stay positive about the Black Caps' potential absentees at the Sydney Cricket Ground tomorrow morning.
While the Black Caps were always likely to plump for spinners Will Somerville or Todd Astle — or both — over the poorly-performed Santner, emergency call-up Glenn Phillips could now be thrust into the test arena if Williamson and Nicholls are both ruled out — with the struggling Jeet Raval the only other batting specialist available in the squad.
While Williamson, more so than Nicholls, is tipped to play unless his condition worsens overnight, the permutations meant Latham was unable to definitively answer any questions over the make-up of the likely starting XI. Selecting two spinners is now more of a possibility if Astle is also utilised as pseudo-batting cover, while Matt Henry is in line for another chance to boost his flailing test bowling average of 48.5, as the Black Caps' third seam option.
"We'd have to look at the make-up of the squad, we've got one extra batsman in the squad but we've got a few all-rounders there as well, which does make it a little bit easier, so if we do have to come to that decision then all options will be discussed," Latham said.
"If we lost those guys it would be disappointing, but I know we've got a squad of 15 here who are passionate about this team, and whatever side we do end up playing, we've got the backing of the whole group that it's the right team to do the job."
Latham could be handed even more responsibility tomorrow if given the captaincy, on top of the tremendously tricky task he's already been dealt — trying to combat the world-leading Australian bowling attack.
"It's been an immense challenge, but it's been an enjoyable one," said Latham.
"Yes, we haven't quite had the results from a batting point of view but to test ourselves in these conditions against four world-class bowlers has been a challenge, and that's the standard that we want to reach."
That challenge is compounded by having to face levels of speed and bounce rarely on show in New Zealand domestic cricket, and while Latham acknowledges it is a difficult ask for the Black Caps batsmen, he is hopeful that they'll be able to turn the tables in the final test of the series.
"It's a challenge in itself, where if you haven't got the resources, to find ways of getting familiar with those sorts of bowlers. We do face it in the nets — we've got a couple of guys on the sidearm who get [their speed] up there — but the height is the other thing, those three guys bash away for long periods of time and don't give you much, so hopefully our batsman get familiar with their plans and try hit the ground running.
"The guys will be doing all they can to try and put a good performance out there. There are [test championship] points up for grabs and if we can put a good performance on the board then hopefully we can get on the plane with a few points under the belt."