Tim Southee has been given the thumbs up to hit the bowling crease again.
The Black Caps swing bowler will make his return to cricket for the Northern Knights in Whangarei tomorrow in a Plunket Shield match against Wellington after injuring his thumb against the same side almost two months ago.
Southee is confident his left thumb will stand up to the duress of the four-day game, therefore confirming his availability for the rest of the international series against England.
The 24-year-old tore the ligaments in his thumb when he jammed it into the ground diving to field a ball for the Knights against Wellington at the Basin Reserve before Christmas, requiring surgery.
"There wasn't a break but I ripped the ligaments clean off the bone," Southee said.
"It was in a full cast for two and a bit weeks, then a splint for a while after that. Four or five weeks after surgery I was back into a bit of bowling and I was also able to do some running and gym work."
Southee resumed batting and fielding last week and came through training in Whangarei yesterday with no problems.
"It's all looking promising. I spoke to the surgeon last week and he's pretty confident - it's recovered more quickly than he expected.
"It's not at full range yet - it's still a bit stiff in some movements. It may still take another month or so for it to get back to being free like it was beforehand. But it feels reasonably strong so unless I get a ball on the thumb or do what I did before I'm pretty sure it's going to get through."
"I'm excited to get back out there. It's probably the longest layoff I've had. I've been lucky with injury, touch wood."
Southee stayed in New Zealand in early December while the Black Caps were playing Twenty20 matches against South Africa to witness the birth of his first child, son Cooper, but was due to join the Test squad before the injury.
He's keen to return to the national side but that may not be until the Test series starts next month.
"I'll play this game and keep in touch with the New Zealand medical staff and Brendon [McCullum] and Mike [Hesson] as well and I guess it's up to them what they want to do, whether it's to be involved in the one-day series or just get myself right for the Test series. I guess it's their call."
The Black Caps played the second of the three-match Twenty20 series in Hamilton last night, with the final match on Friday before the three-game one-day series starts in Hamilton on Sunday - coinciding with the scheduled final day of the Plunket Shield match in Whangarei.
Southee said New Zealand cricket fans shouldn't be surprised with the strength of the England team that scored a crushing win in the opener at Eden Park last Saturday.
"To the public there's a few names in there that they don't really have an idea of; it's not a side with the names like the Pietersens, the Cooks, the Swanns and the Andersons.
"They've got guys who almost specialise in the short form of the game and play a lot of Twenty20 cricket in England and around the world. They're not household names but I guess they will be in the years to come."