Cricket: Blackcaps' Martin Guptill in race for fitness for Australia Twenty20 series, Finn Allen named as injury cover

Key Blackcaps batsman Martin Guptill needs to pass a fitness test, before he's officially included in the Twenty20 squad to take on Australia in the upcoming five-match series.

Guptill is still nursing a hamstring injury suffered during the Auckland Aces' Super Smash campaign, but has been tentatively named to the 13-man group. 

On Friday, he'll assemble with the team in Christchurch, where he'll need to prove he's healthy enough to take his place.

Emerging Wellington Firebirds star Finn Allen has been added to the squad as cover and would slot in as Guptill's replacement, if the veteran opener fails his assessment.

"Finn's been in outstanding form and he’s certainly an exciting talent," selector Gavin Larsen says of the 21-year-old, who scored 512 runs at a jaw-dropping strike rate of 193 during the domestic competition.

"Martin’s our incumbent opener and our highest T20 International runscorer, so we're backing him to do the job at the top of the order, but he will need to prove his fitness and it’s good to know we have a ready replacement in Finn on stand-by."

Kane Williamson returns to lead the team, after resting during the November T20 series against West Indies and playing just the final two matches against Pakistan.

He'll slot back into his regular position of three in the batting order, which would likely push Devon Conway - fresh from leading the Firebirds to the Super Smash title - down to four.

The rest of the squad has a familiar feel to it, with Glenn Phillips and Mark Chapman backed to continue in the middle order.

Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson and Hamish Bennett make up the pace-bowling quartet, with Lockie Ferguson still unavailable, due to a back injury.

Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi are the spinners, while Jimmy Neesham has overcome his finger injury to be named as the all-rounder, but there's still no room for batsman Ross Taylor.

The veteran had been vocal about his intention to work his way back to the format's international stage, but struggled for form during the Central Stags' domestic campaign.

Larsen says the series will provide a timely litmus test in the build-up to the T20 World Cup in India, starting in October.

"There's no doubt this series is massive for everyone involved," Larsen admits. "Australia will provide a really stern test for our guys who I know will relish the chance to test themselves against the No.2 T20 side in the world.

"A five-game series also allows us to really nail down our gameplans and the way we want to play, as we look ahead to the World Cup later this year."

The opening match of the series will take place at a sold-out Hagley Oval in Christchurch on February 22.

Blackcaps T20 squad: Kane Williamson (c), Hamish Bennett, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, *Martin Guptill (pending fitness test), Kyle Jamieson, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee

Join us for live updates of the Twenty20 internationals between the Blackcaps and Australia, starting February 22