New Zealand fast-bowler Neil Wagner is expected to be a part of hosts’ playing XI in Dunedin for the first match of the three-Test series, which kick-starts on March 8 (Wednesday).
The 30-year-old injured the left ring finger of his bowling hand during the first-class competition (Ford-Trophy) while playing for Otago Volts earlier this month.
“He’s highly likely. It [recovery] has been as good as expected. Neil has done everything possible to be ready for that first test and he played club cricket yesterday and got through that fine,” New Zealand Head Coach Mike Hesson was quoted as saying by Stuff.co.nz
The Pretoria-born left-arm fast bowler is expected to attain complete fitness ahead of the challenging Test series against the Proteas.
“He’s done everything possible to [be] ready for the first Test,” Hesson said.
After recovering from injury, the seamer took the field for Albion Cricket Club on February 25 (Saturday), where he picked up four wickets in 10 overs to bundle out the North East Valley team for 110 in a 50-over game at Tonga Park.
However, the selectors have also called fast bowler Matt Henry as a back-up for Wagner in the Test squad.
“With Neil having had an injury we want to make sure that Matt is ready to go if required,” Hesson revealed.
The 25-year-old fast bowler Lockie Ferguson is also a strong contender for the first Test.
Coach Mike Hesson has said Ferguson, who was blighted with injuries in the recent past, is getting better with each passing game.
“I thought he [Ferguson] bowled well enough to get two or three last night [fourth ODI against South Africa]. He’s still developing, but he’s certainly getting better,” Hesson remarked.
Wagner, who is listed No. 11 in the ICC Bowlers’ Rankings, made his Test debut in 2012 against the West Indies. He has played 29 Tests so far and has bagged 118 at an average of 28.58, with 4 five-wicket hauls.