Big-hitting batsman Martin Guptill has been put on standby in case Ross Taylor fails to recover from an injury, New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said on Tuesday. New Zealand and England lock horns in the first of the two-match Test series, starting on March 22 at Eden Park in Auckland. Taylor is fighting to return to full fitness after picking up a thigh injury in the recently-concluded ODI series against England. The call-up will come as a major boost for Guptill, whose Test career has failed to ever get going despite a successful One-Day International (ODI) career.
"Martin's made a shift to the middle order," Hesson told Radio Sport.
"He hasn't had a lot of opportunity there, but with his ability to cover all positions it's nice to have him back."
Guptill has excelled as a one-day opener for New Zealand, averaging 42.99, but is yet to prove himself in the longer format, where his figures drop to 29.38.
The opening Test of the two-match series, which starts Thursday, is a day-night fixture at Eden Park, the first pink-ball Test ever staged in New Zealand.
Meanwhile, New Zealand's cricketers will be drawing inspiration from images of Richie McCaw leading the All Blacks to Rugby World Cup glory.
Despite some injury concerns, New Zealand short-ball specialist Neil Wagner was focused on performing at the Eden Park fortress where the All Blacks are unbeaten in 40 rugby Tests dating back to 1994.
The history of day-night Tests, using a pink ball, favours the home side who have won seven of the eight matches played so far. Further troubling England is their recent Test form, having lost the Ashes 4-0 to Australia in December and January.
Eden Park's short boundaries should favour batsmen, but that doesn't worry Wagner who had match figures of eight for 126 when New Zealand beat India at the ground in 2014 and took three wickets in a tense drawn Test against England the previous year.
For England, Ben Stokes suffered back stiffness after the one-day series earlier this month and if there is any doubt he can fill a full bowler's role then England could be tempted to drop a batsman, possibly James Vince, to bring in an extra pace bowler.
(With AFP Inputs)