New Zealand's quest to recover some Test form has been dealt a blow by the news that former skipper Daniel Vettori will likely not be fit for the visit by England in February as he is still recovering from an Achilles injury.
The spinner has been suffering from the injury over the past year, on and off, and is currently on a four-month recovery programme after re-injuring it during the World Twenty20 in September last year.
Vettori, one of the Black Caps' key players for the past decade or more, would have added stability to a fragile Test side, but he is only looking at a first class return in March, and then possibly the tour to England in May.
He told Fairfax NZ News: "I'm hoping to be available for selection for Northern Districts' one-day campaign [that begins on February 28], and then whatever happens from there happens. I won't be able to play any four-day cricket, so the Test matches against England may be a stretch for me.
"That [New Zealand's tour of England] is probably a more realistic goal, but Achilles are funny things, they come and go with the pain and I need to prove to not only the selectors, but myself, that I can manage back-to-back days of cricket. That's the plan, but I'll just see how I go."
Added to this, the Kiwis were hoping to have batsman Jesse Ryder back after his self-imposed sabbatical due to personal issues, but he has said he is not ready to return to the international stage. Ross Taylor, meanwhile, is set to return to the team following his fall-out with the coaching staff.