Challengers lie in wait as Southee prepares to return
Tim Southee is poised to gain his spot back in the New Zealand test team – but knows there’s a host of challengers hot on his heels.
Southee missed the Black Caps’ first-test win over the West Indies in Wellington to be at the birth of his child with partner Brya. He is expected to replace Matt Henry in the XI for the second test starting in Hamilton tomorrow.
The 28-year-old, who is New Zealand’s fifth most prolific wicket-taker in test history with 204 victims, admits there are plenty of players pushing for a spot in the quick-bowling arsenal.
Alongside Henry – and current incumbents Trent Boult and Neil Wagner – are the likes of Lockie Ferguson, Adam Milne and Scott Kuggeleijn wanting to become international regulars.
‘‘It’s obviously healthy competition,’’ Southee said.
‘‘It’s good to have that competition, it keeps guys striving to get better. No-one ever takes their spot for granted.
‘‘It comes with the territory of playing at this level. It’s an honour to play for your country – no-one goes into it thinking they have the right to be there.
‘‘You see it around training – the competitive edge with the guys. It brings out the best in all the players, knowing there’s guys knocking the door down, performing well in domestic cricket and bowling well in the nets as well.
‘‘The amount of depth we’ve got is a pleasing sign, all reasonably young as well.’’
Southee has taken 34 wickets in his six tests at Seddon Park, while having regular first-class success at the venue for Northern Districts, but believes adapting to conditions will be key for the bowlers.
‘‘Usually it’s a good wicket here. It usually does swing a little here, but again, there’s been matches where it hasn’t. So it’s more about adapting to the wicket, and I think we’ve done that reasonably well, not only here, but at most of the grounds around New Zealand over the last few years.
‘‘Looking at that surface on day one [in Wellington] and you think that Neil Wagner took seven-for with, I think, six of them being bouncers, you’re probably wondering how it all happened.
‘‘And I think that’s the strength of this group – we are able to adapt to different conditions, and I think that was a move that was made reasonably quickly and early on in the day.
‘‘It takes courage on a green one to all of a sudden run in and start banging it in halfway down.
‘‘But that’s the beauty of this side – we’re willing to try things, and not all of the time it comes off, but when it does it’s very satisfying.’’
Southee’s key weapon – outswing – has been hampered by the Kookaburra balls used for tests here, so he’s had to adapt to that also.
‘‘That’s one thing that we’ve had a bit of a focus on over the last couple of years.
‘‘Obviously the Kookaburra hasn’t always swung . . . I think it’s working out ways to get wickets when the ball’s not swinging – I think we’ve done that reasonably well in these conditions over the last few years.’’
He’s keen to see how he would fare with a Duke ball.
‘‘I guess it would be nice to see how it goes in these conditions. Obviously it works well in the UK, so I’m always open to seeing how it’d go here in New Zealand.’’
Tim Southee is likely to start for New Zealand in the second test against the West Indies but knows the depth of pace bowlers in the Black Caps squad could make his position in the team less than comfortable.
Lockie Ferguson, left, and Adam Milne are among those pushing Tim Southee for his test spot.