By Niall Anderson in Nottingham

With 30 wickets in three games, and having restricted their opposition to totals of 136, 244 and 172, it would be a brave call to change the Black Caps' bowling unit.

Yet, that's what the New Zealand brains trust will be contemplating over the next few days, as Tim Southee nears full fitness and pushes for a return to the starting XI.

Likely to be have picked in the Black Caps' first-choice Cricket World Cup XI before suffering a calf injury ahead of their opening game, Southee's place has been occupied well by Matt Henry.


Henry was excellent against Sri Lanka with 3-29, and took some late wickets (4-47) to slightly inflate a strong performance against Bangladesh, but his performance against Afghanistan left more to be desired.

The Canterbury seamer was unlucky to see some chances go begging, but he also didn't quite nail his lengths against the Afghanistan openers in Taunton, and leaked nine boundaries in his figures of 8-0-50-0.

That has left the door ajar for Southee's potential return, if he successfully gets through training ahead of Thursday's game against India in Nottingham.

Matt Henry and Tim Southee are vying for a spot in the Black Caps XI. Photos / Getty
Matt Henry and Tim Southee are vying for a spot in the Black Caps XI. Photos / Getty

Southee's recent ODI record doesn't demand inclusion, although his value is greater than those statistics suggest. But he was solid in the warm-up game against India with 1-26 in seven overs, took six wickets in his last ODI, and his experience and value in swinging conditions is undoubted.

Black Caps bowling coach Shane Jurgensen didn't want to speak for the selectors, but acknowledged it will be a tricky decision.

"It's a real good problem to have in the ability to take wickets and what they bring to the team. Matt's bowled really well so far and it's a tough decision to make – they both bring their own strengths to the table.

"Tim's not far away in terms of his fitness and will be available for selection soon. What he brings to the team is the ability to bowl bouncy outswingers, and obviously his experience. He bowled a few overs off a full run the day of the game against Bangladesh, which was pleasing to see and he came through that alright, so he's building up nicely."

Black Caps captain Kane Williamson will have a say on who gets the nod to play against India, and indicated it could come down to the wicket they're presented with at Trent Bridge.


"The beauty of this squad is everybody's a little bit different. So when you do turn up and you're addressing the surface and the opposition, you do have slightly different options to look at. We'll just have to turn up at Trent Bridge and have a look with what we're dealing with."

Regardless of whether Henry or Southee get the nod, Jurgensen is proud of his group's performances so far, but knows that they will need to keep the same standards as the hardest games loom.

"What's been pleasing is we've made the necessary adjustments with our bowling, we've changed our plans and I think that's something we're really proud of as a bowling unit – that's what we want to do and so far at the World Cup that's what we've done.

"We'll need to continue that."

The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':