Black Caps doing enough to reignite fans' hopes

Now comes the real test.

Wellington was exhilarating, but Hamilton now poses the all-too-familiar dilemma regarding New Zealand's frustrating inability to back up one test victory with another.

It's not that they can't do it - their most recent back-to-back wins, against Australia in Hobart and Zimbabwe in Napier two seasons ago, are a reminder of what's possible. Now there's a series at stake, which even a draw over the next five days would achieve.

A draw's a lame option, though, considering the momentum and expectation generated by the Black Caps' innings victory over the West Indies at the Basin Reserve inside three days.

Let's forget for a moment that this West Indies side looks incapable of posing a genuine threat. Bangladesh weren't supposed to be up to much either - until they took the field.

There's a very solid argument to suggest that had it not rained on day five in Dunedin, New Zealand would already have the series in the bag. But Wellington's spectacular winning effort aside, this Black Caps team aren't so flush with success that they can afford to treat the West Indies with anything but respect.

Australia were supposed to again dominate a besieged England side in Perth, and while Tuesday's 150-run third test win to regain the Ashes certainly suggests that, there was enough fight in the Poms' second-innings batting performance for them to briefly contemplate outrageous notions of an upset victory.

It never happened, because the Aussies showed patience and confidence and waited for the inevitable tail-order collapse. The Black Caps must show similar regard for their systems, and in Trent Boult and Tim Southee they have a bowling spearhead that will hopefully be around for many seasons to come.

Although Black Caps bowling coach Shane Bond subsequently singled out Southee as the team's leading seamer, Boult's efforts clearly tagged him as an indispensable element of the team makeup. The left-armer's 10-wicket match haul aside, arguably Boult's most spectacular effort over the three days was the stunning one-handed diving catch to remove Denesh Ramdin.

Still, the bowlers were only able to apply pressure thanks to another stellar batting effort by Ross Taylor, who again highlighted the rather inconsistent efforts of his fellow batsmen. B J Watling aside, too many Black Caps batsmen wasted promising starts, again leaving the team's fate resting precariously in the hands of one or two players.

There are promising signs ahead. Jesse Ryder has signalled his readiness for a return to the international arena via the one-day series. Kane Williamson remains a largely untapped resource, and with a fit Martin Guptill hopefully putting more pressure on the likes of Hamish Rutherford and Peter Fulton to achieve more consistency, maybe there's potential yet for this side to become a genuine international threat - at home at least.

The Nelson Mail