| Michael Vaughan during a practice session
Gros Islet: New Zealand and England both suffered late injury setbacks before Friday’s key World Cup Group C clash.
Dangerous middle-order batsman Craig McMillan was struck by a yorker from fast bowler Shane Bond in the nets on Wednesday and suffered severe bruising on his right foot big toe. He is now rated doubtful to play on Friday.
Not to be outdone, England also suffered a blow when their quick bowler James Anderson injured the little finger of his right bowling hand in their practice session on Wednesday.
Anderson, who has fractured the knuckle, threw and caught the ball, bowled a few leisurely deliveries and batted gingerly for a couple of minutes during Thursday’s practice session, but there’s no confirmation from the English camp about his availability.
New Zealand were already certain to be without paceman Mark Gillespie who missed last week’s warm-up games because of a numb bowling arm caused by a rare reaction to a throat virus.
Fitness should not be an issue though for the two sides’ injury-prone inspirations — Michael Vaughan and Bond.
England captain Vaughan has declared himself fully fit despite only fielding for 10 and 17 overs in the warm-ups as he battles back from knee and hamstring injuries.
“We’re going to try and put New Zealand under pressure on Friday, get that first game out of the way and hopefully get a victory,” he told reporters.
England arrived in the Caribbean on the back of an extraordinary victory in a tri-series against Australia and New Zealand when they won four games in a row having looked to be heading out of the competition.
“We know it’s a big tournament but we’re just going to try and play the cricket we played towards the end in Australia,” he added.
New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming, however, will have revenge very much on his mind.
“We’re smarting over England knocking us out in Australia and to get a good start to this tournament we have to win it, and win it well,” Fleming said.
“Looking at the Super Eights you’ve probably got to beat every side to win this tournament at some stage and if we beat England now it may help in the long run,” he added.
Speaking to the reporters on Thursday, England vice-captain Andrew Flintoff echoed the same feeling.
“It is going to be huge for us in the context of the World Cup. The two sides are pretty similar in the makeup of the teams. I think it could be a great and intriguing contest. There are probably six or seven teams that on any given day can beat each other.”
England were disappointing in the last two tournaments but Flintoff said the mood among the squad was a lot brighter having recently won the tri-series in Australia.
“I’ve played in two World Cups already and the first two were both pretty much non-starters to be honest,” he said.
“I’m keen to perform in this one. We are excited about playing in a World Cup and we are feeling pretty well-equipped. We’ve got a nice feeling in the camp,” the English allrounder said.
New Zealand (likely): Lou Vincent, Stephen Fleming, Ross Taylor, Scott Styris, Jacob Oram, Craig McMillan, Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori, Shane Bond, Jeetan Patel, James Franklin/ Daryl Tuffey.
England (likely): Michael Vaughan, Ed Joyce, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Jamie Dalrymple, Paul Nixon, Liam Plunkett, Jon Lewis, Monty Panesar.
Umpires: Rudi Koertzen (SA), Billy Doctrove (WI); TV: Peter Parker (Aus).
Match Referee: Mike Procter (SA).
Match starts 7 pm IST.