Black Caps bowlers hit form as frustration ends
Much like a root canal operation, New Zealand's one-day series in Sri Lanka can finally be consigned to the bin marked "thank heavens that's over".
The five-match rubber met a merciful and watery end in Hambantota with New Zealand in a rare position of strength but foiled by the weather in their push for victory, leaving the hosts 3-0 series victors.
Now, ironically given their recent lack of cricket in the Sri Lankan monsoon season, the tourists face four more idle days before the two-test series opens in Galle on Saturday (5.30pm NZ time).
Despite having won just one of their past 13 ODIs, New Zealand could grasp some positives looking to the tests after Tim Southee (3-18), with assistance from Trent Boult and Adam Milne, reduced Sri Lanka to 123-8 before rain ended yesterday's contest.
"Obviously it's frustrating not getting a lot of time in the middle with the rain coming and going. As the series has gone on it's felt like the bowling is starting to click and we're getting into our work," Southee said.
"It's some momentum we can take into the test series."
Southee and Boult are the likely test new-ball duo, so after they caused the Sri Lankan batsmen to bob and weave in the final two ODIs the tourists will hope for more rain to spice up the test pitch surface in seaside Galle.
Reinforcements arrived in Colombo at the weekend, with Martin Guptill, Doug Bracewell, Chris Martin, Kruger van Wyk, Neil Wagner, Daniel Flynn and spin duo Jeetan Patel and Todd Astle replacing Andrew Ellis, Ronnie Hira, Tom Latham, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Milne, Jacob Oram and BJ Watling, whose ODI form (166 runs at 83) put a compelling case for retention in the test squad.
Coming off a career-best 7-64 in the second test defeat by India in September, Southee knows he must lead the way as New Zealand go in rank outsiders.
"If you weigh it up they're a batting-strong side and if we can do our job as bowlers and set the games up for the batsmen there's no reason why we can't turn this tour around and have a good finish in the test matches."
From that Hyderabad test there should be minimal changes, with Guptill, Flynn, van Wyk, Bracewell and Patel all set to be pressed into action without a warmup game in Sri Lanka.
Guptill, New Zealand's player of the year, is coming off an enforced rest with no Plunket Shield lead-in which should be challenging, given his troubles against spin bowling.
Flynn also struggled in India but cracked 182 against Otago last week while Patel, who went wicketless for Wellington in Napier, will again be the frontline spinner in the absence of the injured Daniel Vettori.