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CRICKET / Captain McCullum to keep wickets

RECORD BECKONS: Daniel Vettori (left), on the verge of a dramatic Test comeback, will becomeNew Zealand’s most-capped player.— PHOTO: AP
RECORD BECKONS: Daniel Vettori (left), on the verge of a dramatic Test comeback, will becomeNew Zealand’s most-capped player.— PHOTO: AP

New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori is on the verge of making a dramatic return to Test cricket as the Black Caps bid for a series-levelling win against England at Headingley.

Former captain Vettori hasn’t played a Test for nearly a year, mainly because of Achilles trouble, and was only originally selected for the one-day leg of this tour.

But a calf injury suffered by his fellow left-arm spinner Bruce Martin during New Zealand’s thumping 170-run first Test defeat at Lord’s saw Vettori make an earlier than expected arrival in England.

The 34-year-old, who bowled in the Headingley nets on Wednesday, is vying for a place with seamer Doug Bracewell, not selected at Lord’s.

Recent experience suggests Yorkshire’s headquarters, where the second and final Test of this series starts on Friday, is only a seamers’ paradise when conditions are overcast, making it important to field at least one specialist spin bowler.

If Vettori is included, he will become New Zealand’s single most-capped Test player, topping the mark of 111 appearances he shares with Stephen Fleming. Vettori’s record shows 112 Tests but one of those was for an ICC World XI against Australia in 2005.

“It's exciting seeing Dan around the changing room and training with us again,” Black Caps left-arm seamer Neil Wagner said on Wednesday.

“He is just one of those guys you can always rely on,” added Wagner of Vettori, New Zealand's second-most successful Test bowler behind Richard Hadlee with 360 wickets.

New Zealand has confirmed captain Brendon McCullum will keep wickets at Headingley after B.J. Watling was ruled out with a knee injury suffered during the first Test.

McCullum, who deputised for Watling at Lord’s, gave up keeping in Tests because of a back complaint in 2010.

Extra batsman

New Zealand will play an extra batsman at Headingley in Martin Guptill, who has experience of English conditions from his time with Derbyshire.

The Black Caps will need all the batting nous — something Vettori, with six hundreds at this level behind him, has too — they can muster after collapsing to 68 all out in their second innings at Lord’s in the face of seven for 44 from England seamer Stuart Broad.

England didn’t make as many as it would have liked at Lord’s, but it is how New Zealand, which on Sunday was six down for fewer than 40 runs for the third time this year, bat at Headingley that is likely to determine the outcome of the match and series.

Anderson on a roll

James Anderson, who at Lord’s became only the fourth England bowler to take 300 Test wickets, is in line to overtake Fred Trueman’s mark of 307 on the late Yorkshire fast bowling great’s home ground.

If the sight of a seamer from arch-rival Lancashire surpassing Trueman in the record books is too much for some locals, they can take heart from the inclusion of Yorkshire batsmen Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root, although their county colleague Tim Bresnan may miss out again should fast bowler Steven Finn retain his place.

Both Bairstow and Root have yet to make a Test hundred — something their most loyal supporters would love to see change in Leeds. Root currently looks the more likely, having made a composed 71 at Lord's and the 22-year-old is relishing the prospect of his first Test at Headingley.

The teams (from):

England : Alastair Cook (capt.), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Matt Prior (wk), Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Steven Finn, James Anderson and Tim Bresnan.

New Zealand : Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Doug Brownlie, Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum (capt./wk), Tim Southee, Daniel Vettori, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell.— AFP

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