Southee ruled out of SA series
Tim Southee (file pic)
New Zealand have been rocked again ahead of their Test cricket series against South Africa after pace bowler Tim Southee was forced to pull out with a thumb injury.
Southee will be sidelined for up to two months after falling awkwardly in the field during Northern District's Plunket Shield match against Wellington this week.
New Zealand team physiotherapist Paul Close said scans showed ligaments in Southee's thumb had fully ruptured and retracted.
"After consultation with NZC medical staff and a hand specialist it was decided the best course of action is for him to have surgery," Close said.
"The procedure is likely to keep him out of the game for six to eight weeks."
That recovery schedule should see the 24-year-old available for most or all of the home series against England next year.
The tourists play the first of three Twenty20 internationals on February 9 while the one-day international series starts on February 17 and the first of three Tests on March 6.
Southee's absence further weakens New Zealand's hopes ahead of the series against world No.1 ranked South Africa.
They are already without injured veteran spinner Daniel Vettori, former skipper Ross Taylor, arguably the Black Caps' best batsman who made himself unavailable after being demoted as captain and middle order batsman Jesse Ryder.
New Zealand are yet to name a replacement for Southee, who has been in superb recent form and was reportedly being considered as the Black Caps vice-captain under Brendon McCullum.
Southee took 12 wickets at an average under 14 during the recent drawn Test series against Sri Lanka, including 8-120 in the second Test win at Colombo.
He had been excused from the three-match Twenty20 series starting on Friday due to the imminent arrival of his first child.
The first of two Tests begins in Cape Town on January 2.