Off the back of their best Twenty20 win in recent memory, New Zealand enter tonight's series decider well aware of how quickly the wheels can fall off.
A year ago they outplayed South Africa in game one at Westpac Stadium, then were bludgeoned by Richard Levi in Hamilton and butchered a runchase in Auckland. The Proteas had a sniff and New Zealand didn't win another game all tour.
It's an over-used sporting word, momentum, but that's what beckons tonight for captain Brendon McCullum's team. It will get progressively tougher in the three ODIs and three tests as England roll out heavier artillery and, despite the fickle nature of T20, it's timely to make a statement.
"Every game is a big game for us, especially as a team at the moment. We can't afford to be complacent about one good performance and we've got to keep trying to take strides forward," McCullum said.
"The result is of huge importance but also how we play is significant. It's imperative we put out another good, solid performance and show that we're capable of backing up consistently and executing the skills we need to."
Two equally emphatic results leave the series poised at 1-1, and showed how important it is to seize control early. Both winning sides batted first and put up matchwinning totals in Auckland and Hamilton, then did early damage with the ball.
All four T20 internationals at the stadium have been won by the chasing team as the later dew makes batting easier, and McCullum said that was their likely plan.
The pacemen did the job in Hamilton, with the recalled Ian Butler and Mitchell McClenaghan outstanding, and Trent Boult getting swing but going wicketless.
Conditions should be less seamer-friendly in Wellington, which is usually drier and slower. New Zealand's 162-8 against Sri Lanka in 2006 is the highest international total there. McCullum said spinner Ronnie Hira could be considered as New Zealand were "a batter heavy" in Hamilton, suggesting Grant Elliott or Colin Munro might miss out if there's any change.
Local knowledge should suit the hosts, with the bigger boundaries at the stadium. South Africa's skipper AB de Villiers said last year the quirks of the ground made it difficult to defend on.
"We are familiar with these conditions but we were familiar with Auckland as well but we didn't perform as well as we'd have liked," McCullum said.
Meanwhile, England paceman Steven Finn revealed he was to shorten his run-up - in the bootsteps of Richard Hadlee - to eradicate his stump-kicking habit. Finn's marker measures 25.7m but he'd cut it down to below 20m at practice yesterday.
"By shortening my run-up it could potentially help that. But with the amount of cricket that we play it's about getting the timing right. I worked on it in the nets and it felt really good. Whether tomorrow's the right time to try it, I don't know," Finn said.
Finn kicked the stumps once in Auckland but not in Hamilton. He's permitted one delivery in the T20, ODI and test series before the rest are called dead ball. Some New Zealand players believe he should be no-balled and while McCullum was guarded, he said: "It can be slightly distracting. It's not ideal."
HOW THEY LINE UP
What: New Zealand v England, third Twenty20 international
Where: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
When: 7pm tonight, live on Sky Sport 1
TAB odds: England $1.75, NZ $2
New Zealand (from): Martin Guptill, Hamish Rutherford, Brendon McCullum (c), Ross Taylor, Colin Munro, Grant Elliott, James Franklin, Nathan McCullum, Ian Butler, Trent Boult, Mitchell McClenaghan, Roneel Hira, Andrew Ellis. England (from): Michael Lumb, Alex Hales, Luke Wright, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, Samit Patel, Stuart Broad (c), James Tredwell, Steven Finn, Jade Dernbach, Joe Root, Chris Woakes, Danny Briggs, Stuart Meaker, James Harris. Umpires: Gary Baxter (NZ), Chris Gaffaney (NZ). Third umpire: Derek Walker (NZ).
- © Fairfax NZ News
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