'He's making good but slow progress' - Black Caps coach on BJ Watling's fitness woes




BJ Watling's wait to return to the Black Caps will extend another 16 weeks after missing the cut for the second Test against the West Indies.

Mike Hesson says he had hoped Watling would be keeping in the domestic competition this week but that hasn't proved to be the case.
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A hip injury has kept world class wicketkeeper Watling out for the Test starting in Hamilton on Saturday, allowing first-Test stand-out Tom Blundell to retain the gloves.

Coach Mike Hesson says the 32-year-old won't be considered for New Zealand's hefty diet of limited overs cricket this summer, meaning the two-Test series against England in late March will be his only opportunity to play.

That will come a full year after his last appearance, at home to South Africa in March this year.

It is a frustrating outcome for Watling, who has been in good touch with the bat at domestic level, including a one-day century for Northern Districts against Wellington on Sunday.

Because he wasn't deemed ready to wear the gloves in that game, Hesson couldn't consider him for the second Test on his home venue of Seddon Park.

However, Hesson said it was "a bit dramatic" to suggest Watling's international career is under threat after Blundell fashioned a century on debut at the Basin Reserve.

He suggested Watling, if fit, would have returned this week despite the younger man's performance.

"We've always shown a lot of confidence in the incumbents. BJ Watling has been a world-class performer over a long period of time for us," Hesson said.

"Tom Blundell certainly asked us a really nice question and showed that he deserves plenty of opportunities in time."

Watling would also have been considered as a batsman-only in this series, Hesson confirmed, but his current lack of mobility in the field counted against him. He averages 38.05 at Test level.

Meanwhile, there is one change to the New Zealand squad for the Hamilton Test from the group who won in Wellington by an innings and 67 runs.

Seamer Tim Southee is available again following the birth of his first child and will almost certainly replace Matt Henry.

However, Hesson wants to assess pitch conditions in Hamilton, along with the fitness of fellow-seamers Trent Boult and Neil Wagner before making a final call.

Batsman George Worker and pace bowler Lockie Ferguson were both released to play domestic one-day matches on Wednesday, although Ferguson will rejoin the Black Caps immediately afterwards.

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