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New Zealand to stick with injured Fleming

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 7 (Reuters) Stephen Fleming's dislocated thumb will not stop him trying to steady New Zealand's shaky batting in the first test against South Africa starting tomorrow.

The injury forced the former captain out of the 85-run defeat by South Africa A at the weekend.

''The only thing that will make me not select him is if he doesn't pitch up,'' New Zealand coach John Bracewell told a news conference.

''Stephen has had a bit of discomfort when batting, but it is easing. I have no concerns about him playing in the test.'' New Zealand were dismissed in all four innings in their two warm-up matches, only once scoring more than 300.

''The emphasis is on playing ball-by-ball,'' Bracewell said.

''They need to stay in the now rather than reflect on the past, which may have affected us in the past.'' New Zealand last played a test in Wellington in December, losing to Sri Lanka by 217 runs.

Bracewell denied that the lack of test cricket was the cause of the Black Caps' problems.

''That hasn't affected us and isn't really the concern,'' Bracewell said.

''The top three are all specialist test players, the top order have been with the A side in Australia recently, and Stephen Fleming has a lot of experience and is coming off a good season in county cricket.'' South Africa this month became just the third team from outside the Asian sub-continent to win both a test and one-day series in Pakistan.

South Africa coach Mickey Arthur also wants his players to look forward.

''We've been playing in foreign conditions and we're coming straight out of Pakistan while they've been here,'' Arthur told a news conference.

Left-arm spinner Paul Harris, who took 12 wickets in the test series in Pakistan, seems likely to retain his place despite South Africa having taken an all-seam attack into their last two tests in Johannesburg.

''The spinner has made a huge impact on our team and we don't want to tinker too much,'' Arthur said. ''It depends on the conditions, but we'll probably stick with the same XI.'' Squads: South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (captain), Hashim Amla, Mark Boucher, AB de Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs, Paul Harris, Jacques Kallis, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock, Ashwell Prince, Dale Steyn.

New Zealand (from): Daniel Vettori (captain), Shane Bond, Craig Cumming, Stephen Fleming, Mark Gillespie, Brendon McCullum, Chris Martin, Michael Mason, Iain O'Brien, Jacob Oram, Michael Papps, Jeetan Patel, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Lou Vincent.


Story first published: Wednesday, November 7, 2007, 13:36 [IST]
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