RAIN has washed out the first day of the first cricket Test between New Zealand and England in Dunedin without a ball being bowled.
Following a month of relentlessly fine weather which encompassed the Twenty20 and one-day series between the sides, heavy rain arrived half an hour after the scheduled start at University Oval.
Showers persisted for the rest of the day and play was abandoned at 4.15pm (NZST).
Earlier, Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum had won the toss and elected to bowl under overcast skies. The initial start was delayed by gloomy light.
New Zealand are considered heavy underdogs in the three-Test series but the chances of preserving a 40-year unbeaten Test record in Dunedin have improved considerably. Better weather is forecast for Thursday but more rain is predicted for Friday and Saturday.
It was a grim day for world No.2 England on two counts, with spinner Graeme Swann ruled out of the remainder of the tour with an injury to his right elbow.
England management made a late call to omit the 33-year-old due to the injury to his bowling arm which has dogged him for four seasons. It flared up again during the tour match against an England XI in Queenstown.
Swann, who has taken 212 wickets in 50 Tests, will fly to the United States next week for surgery.
A statement said he was expected to resume playing at the start of the English summer, possibly in time for the two-Test home series against New Zealand in May.