The offspinner has struggled for a while now and had been ruled out of the first Test in Dunedin. Following a scan it was confirmed that he will fly to the US next week for an operation, the same clinic at which Tim Bresnan recently underwent surgery to remove scar tissue. He is expected to be out of action until the early summer. James Tredwell has been called up as a replacement.
"He will travel to the US next week to have an operation," an ECB spokesperson confirmed, "and will then undergo a period of recovery and rehabilitation allowing an anticipated return to Test cricket in the early summer."
Swann has been nursing a sore elbow for some considerable time but it has been manageable. In the match against New Zealand A in Queenstown he bowled 42 overs. He did take part in final practice on the day before the match, but had looked to be in some discomfort and at the toss, which took place before the weather closed in, it was confirmed that he would be missing from an England team that is otherwise as expected, and had gone for the scan. It means that Monty Panesar, who two years ago sat an exam in international sports management at Otago University, will receive another examination in the Test match, his fourth successive match, something he has not achieved since Swann came into the side.
The news on Swann is of great concern, not just for this series and the reciprocal series in England but with a view to the ten Ashes matches that follow. The performance of the Australians against Ravichandran Ashwin during their two Test defeats in India shows the vulnerability of their left handers and Swann is renowned as an expert against the lefties.
Panesar of course is a replacement of a quality that would be the envy of most countries as their main spinner. He enjoyed a successful renaissance in India where he played the last three Tests and formed a series-winning combination with Swann. Conditions in New Zealand are such that this combination is not one they would consider, particularly if they maintain their batting strength which has been so important to their success over the past three of four years.
The rest of the England side was announced as expected, which means that Nick Compton has been retained as opener, with the opportunity to demonstrate the sort of skills that he showed last season in England, different to those needed in India where he did an excellent job in blunting the new ball without quite being able to kick on. There is a return, too, for Stuart Broad, who has not played since the second Test in Mumbai. Before the match in Queenstown, there was a definite case for considering the claims of Graham Onions instead, but so poorly did Onions bowl there that unless they decided to promote Chris Woakes, Broad would always get the nod.
Meanwhile New Zealand announced debuts for Neil Wagner, the left arm paceman who gave some England batsmen a working over in Queenstown, and for the 32 year old left arm spinner Bruce Martin. It looked like a good toss for Brendon McCullum to win too, given the overhead conditions.
The weather gods like a good laugh however. So after five weeks of almost unbroken sunshine and high temperatures, they chose the opening morning of the first Test to split their sides. After some early sun seduced spectators into anticipating a pleasant day in a sylvan setting, the cloud rolled in ominously. So gloomy did the light get that play had already been delayed when the covers were rushed onto the pitch and the rain arrived, squally at first and then washing down steadily. The chances of play in the immediate future looked very grim.
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