UPDATE 11.17am: England off-spinner Graeme Swann faces a race against time to be fit for this year’s Ashes double-header after injury forced him out of the Test series against New Zealand today.
Swann was a surprise omission from the tourists’ side to face the Black Caps in the opening Test in Dunedin, with officials later confirming a long-standing problem with his right elbow had flared up, requiring surgery.
“(He) clearly couldn’t get through the five days,” England captain Alastair Cook said after Monty Panesar was named to replace Swann in the first Test, with James Tredwell joining the squad as cover for the rest of the series.
Swann had bone fragments removed from his elbow in 2009 but the surgery was only partially successful and the 33-year-old said he experienced pain in the joint during a warm-up loss to a New Zealand XI last week.
In a column for Britain’s The Sun newspaper this week, he said he feared the troublesome elbow could jeopardise his chances of playing in home-and-away Ashes series this year.
Two editions of the marquee series against Australia are being played back-to-back to avoid a clash with the 2015 World Cup, setting up what Swann said was “arguably England’s greatest year of Test cricket ever”.
“It would be a massive pain in the backside if my wonky elbow forced me to miss any of the Tests against Australia,” he wrote.
“I’m absolutely determined to be available for what might be my final two Ashes series and that means managing the elbow as well as possible.”
The England and Wales Cricket Board estimates Swann will be back by “early summer” after surgery in the United States next week, a tight deadline if he is to make the squad for England’s home Ashes series starting on July 10.
Swann has earned 50 Test caps in a career that includes two victorious Ashes series, with the spinner playing a key role both times in preventing Australia from winning the urn.
Rain today ensured the first day of the Test was abandoned without a ball being bowled after New Zealand won the toss and sent England into bat.
NZ skipper Brendon McCullum said he was looking for early wickets in overcast conditions which are expected to help the Black Caps' seamers swing the ball.
England retained Nick Compton as opening batsman, despite his failure in a warm-up loss to a New Zealand XI last week.
The Kiwi attack has three seamers and spinner Bruce Martin making his debut, as well as a new opening batting partnership featuring debutant Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton.
The tourists are firm favourites for the three-Test series. New Zealand, ranked eighth in Test cricket, have not won a series against England since 1999, with their sole series victory on home soil back in 1984.
New Zealand: Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Dean Brownlie, Brendon McCullum (captain), BJ Watling, Tim Southee, Bruce Martin, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult.
England: Alastair Cook (captain), Nick Compton, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, Steve Finn, James Anderson, Monty Panesar.Umpires: Asad Rauf (PAK), Paul Reiffel (AUS)
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