Сricket

Crisis fears as Kiwi captain struck down

New Zealand batsmen Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls have missed a second straight day of training, just one day out from the third Test against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The pair didn’t turn to up training at the SCG on Thursday, both still unwell with flu-like symptoms, while captain Williamson handed over the pre-match press conference duties to Tom Latham, the NZ Herald reports.

Latham revealed their status for Friday in still in doubt, as is that of spinner Mitchell Santner, who didn’t pull up well this morning.

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“It’s up in the air at the moment — a couple of boys are a little bit crook unfortunately,” said Latham.

“They’re going to have today off, as well as yesterday, so fingers crossed they’ll be right to go tomorrow.

“It’s gone around the team a little bit which obviously isn’t ideal, but fingers crossed — they’re resting up today and hopefully they’ll wake up tomorrow morning and be good to go.”

Latham is not yet expecting to have to take the captain’s armband, noting it would take a lot to rule Williamson out of the Test.

“He’s obviously a great leader amongst this group and he’s passionate about this group, so I’m sure if there’s any chance of him playing — even if it is a small chance — he’ll certainly be playing,” Latham said.

The news will be concerning for the Black Caps, who possess seriously limited options in terms of available batting cover.

Horrendously out-of-form opener Jeet Raval is the only batsman waiting in the wings, with bowlers Todd Astle, Kyle Jamieson, Matt Henry and Will Somerville the other squad options who didn’t play in Melbourne.

However, the Kiwis haven’t yet called in cover, perhaps signalling Williamson and Nicholls should be fine to play tomorrow, and Latham believes there is enough depth amongst the squad.

Kane Williamson (right) has been struck down by illness.Source:AFP

“We’d have to look at the make-up of the squad, we’ve got one extra batsman in the squad but we’ve got a few all-rounders there as well, which does make it a little bit easier, so if we do have to come to that decision then all options will be discussed,” Latham said.

“If we lost those guys it would be disappointing, but I know we’ve got a squad of 15 here who are passionate about this team, and whatever side we do end up playing, we’ve got the backing of the whole group that it’s the right team to do the job.”

Australian captain Tim Paine was expecting Williamson, in particular, to play.

“We’re not worried about it. We’re planning for him to play — if Kane Williamson misses a couple of days training I don’t think it’s going to affect him too much,” Paine said.

“I think a player of his quality knows what he’s doing, he knows how to prepare himself and knows how to get up for the big games.

“We’re preparing for the best Kane Williamson, and if he’s not there, then we saw last game that a guy like Tom Blundell can come in and take it right up to us.

“They’ve got some very good players, we’re not sure what XI they’re going to go with, but we’ve looked really closely at who they’ve got here, so we’re prepared for everyone.”

AUSSIES ON TRACK TO MAINTAIN WINNING FORMULA

Australia is leaning towards naming an unchanged XI for the third Test against New Zealand at the SCG but will wait until a last-minute pitch inspection before making a call.

Uncapped leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson was drafted into the Test squad amid expectations of a spin-friendly pitch.

Tim Paine says Australia is yet to make a decision but “our preference will be to keep the winning combination, with Marnus (Labuschagne) as that second spin option”.

“We’ll have a look again in the morning,” Paine told reporters in his pre-Test press conference.

“It’d be likely we’ll go unchanged but it’s still as possibility when we see that wicket tomorrow morning that we’d go for another spinner.”

Paine wouldn’t reveal whether Swepson’s potential call-up would come at the expense of a fast bowler or a batsman.

“We’ve got some guys in and around our squad who provide quite a bit of flexibility,” the skipper said.

Paine suggested part-time leggie Labuschagne, who has enjoyed a dominant summer with the bat, was ready and able to step up with the ball if required in Sydney.

Mitchell Swepson is still a faint chance of making his Test debut.Source:Getty Images

With NZ Herald and AAP

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