Fit-again Williamson to lead Black Caps

Daniel Gilhooly
New Zealand skipper has been passed fit to play in the Test series against England and Australia

There are no concerns over the fitness of captain Kane Williamson, who has returned from a hip complaint to lead New Zealand in the upcoming Test series against England and Australia.

Williamson was included in a 15-man squad named on Friday for two Tests at home to England starting next week and the Black Caps are confident he will take a full part in the subsequent three-Test tour of Australia.

Williamson sat out the entire five-match Twenty20 series against England this month to nurse an injury that has dogged him for the last 18 months.

However, selector Gavin Larsen said the influential run-maker has always being targeted to return for the opening England fixture, the inaugural Test at his home ground of Bay Oval in Mt Maunganui starting on Thursday.

"Kane's made good progress over the past fortnight and we're delighted to welcome back a player of his class and experience," Larsen said.

"It's obviously going to be a very special Test for him and Trent Boult being such passionate locals."

An intense seven-week schedule will fully examine the mettle of the Black Caps and their Test team ranking of second.

The series against third-ranked England is followed almost immediately by Tests in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney against fifth-ranked Australia.

Their first appearance at the MCG Boxing Day Test since 1987 has become the focal point of a big summer for Williamson's men.

Coach Gary Stead has spoken of rotating his pace attack to keep them fresh, meaning the highly-successful trio of Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner may be broken up.

A trump card could be pace bowler Lockie Ferguson, who is in line for a Test debut in the England series.

His inclusion rewards the white ball form of the 28-year-old who was the second leading wicket-taker at this year's Cricket World Cup.

Ferguson's domestic red ball form has also been compelling.

"There's no doubt Lockie has been knocking on the door for a while now and we're delighted to finally bring him into the Test fold," Larsen said.

"It's well documented he has raw pace, but he also possesses a quality bowling skill set and has proved his durability."

There are two changes from the drawn series in Sri Lanka in August, with Ferguson and leg-spinner Todd Astle included in place of spinners Will Somerville and Ajaz Patel, who are regarded as sub-continent specialists.

NZ TEST SQUAD

Kane Williamson (capt), Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Colin de Grandhomme, Tom Blundell, Mitchell Santner, Todd Astle, Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Neil Wagner, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult.