Philander in doubt for first Test versus NZ

Durban: There are doubts over Vernon Philander's availability for the New Year's Test against New Zealand owing to a flare up of his left hamstring during the first-class match between Cobras and Titans at the Newlands.

Philander bowled five overs and took a wicket before leaving the ground for scans. According to espncricinfo.com, initial estimates were a recovery time of seven to 10 days, but that has been extended to up to two weeks following the results of scans.

"MRI scans revealed that Vernon suffered a Grade 1 strain to his left hamstring. Injuries of this type usually have a 10 to 14-day recovery period," said Mohammed Moosajee, the South African team manager, who is also a medical doctor.

"We will assess the injury as the week progresses, and this will help determine whether his availability for the Test series will be affected.

"At this point, he will not bowl again during the match and will only bat if necessary."

The first Test starts in 12 days' time, on January 2. So it is a tight time scale for Philander. The second Test follows on January 11, which will give him three weeks to recover.

Should Philander miss the first match, Rory Kleinveldt is likely to play, as he did when Philander's back seized-up and forced him to miss the Adelaide Test against Australia.

Philander's troubles are the latest in a long list of niggles that have plagued bowlers this year. It came on the same day when Tim Southee was ruled out of the New Zealand squad for the Tests with a thumb injury.

Southee's unavailability has left the visiting side without a third marquee player, already having lost Ross Taylor and Daniel Vettori - the former to miscommunication and the latter to injury.

South Africa's bowling coach Allan Donald had said Southee could go on to become the "best swing bowler in the world" when he worked with New Zealand. Southee himself was looking forward to facing the Proteas, having been dropped from the side after one Test against them in March.

"It's a big loss. Tim has been our No.1 bowler in Test cricket for the last while," Brendon McCullum said.

"He is a real leader of the attack, even at a young age. He had a keen eye on this series to test himself out against some of the best Test bowlers, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn and the like."

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