Injured New Zealand pace bowler Tim Southee will return to cricket for Northern Districts in a Plunket Shield match against Wellington this week.
Southee, who missed New Zealand's tour of South Africa after injuring his thumb nearly two months ago, has been given clearance to bowl in the four-day match starting in his home town of Whangarei on Thursday.
It is Southee's sole chance to prove his fitness before the Test squad to face England is named on February 20.
Southee ripped ligaments off the thumb bone when fielding for Northern Districts during a Plunket Shield game, also against Wellington, before Christmas. His thumb was in a cast and then a splint for about a month afterwards.
He had been New Zealand's best bowler on the preceding tour of Sri Lanka. His last three Tests have yielded 20 wickets at an average of 14.9.
Meanwhile, veteran seamer Chris Martin should also be available for selection for the England Test series.
Martin, 38, suffered a minor hamstring injury during his Auckland team's draw with Wellington but he has been named in the squad to face Otago starting in Dunedin on Thursday.
Clouds are still hovering over veteran spin bowler Daniel Vettori, 34, who is continuing to struggle with an Achilles tendon complaint.
The first of three Tests starts in Dunedin on March 6.