New Zealand happy to have Bond back from injury

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JOHANNESBURG, Nov 7 (Reuters) Fast bowler Shane Bond will line up for New Zealand in a test against South Africa for the first time when the series opener starts on Thursday, something captain Daniel Vettori described as a ''huge plus'' for his team.

Bond has been ruled out of six previous tests against South Africa due to injuries but Vettori said he was delighted to be able to call on the 32-year-old paceman to take the new ball in the first test in Johannesburg.

''Having Shane available is a huge plus for us. You only have to look at his standing in world cricket to know he is a real quality bowler,'' Vettori told reporters yesterday.

''He'll be anxious to perform because he's always wanted to shine in South Africa.

''It's great to have him and Chris Martin, who has done so well against South Africa in the past, to take the new ball.'' New Zealand's top-order batsmen have been the centre of most debate in the build-up to the test, however, with poor starts in both the tourists' warm-up matches in Bloemfontein and Potchefstroom.

''I think our top-order problems basically come back to practice and they have worked exceptionally hard at their games in the nets.

Hopefully they'll be able to reproduce that out in the middle and I have a lot of confidence they will,'' Vettori said.

South Africa have omitted their leading wicket-taker, Shaun Pollock, from their attack and Vettori said this did not surprise the New Zealanders.

''It was expected in some ways. The nature of the pitch suggests you have to play a spinner and it was reasonably obvious they would stick to the attack that did so well in Pakistan.'' Vettori said the fitness of former captain Stephen Fleming, New Zealand's leading run-scorer, was still in doubt with the management waiting to see how his injured thumb would fare in training later yesterday.

REUTERS RAR RAI1943

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