Black Caps on case after Colombo victory
On the surface, the Black Caps' 167-run victory over Sri Lanka in Colombo last Thursday evening had everything New Zealand cricket has been craving for months.
A first test win in 14 years against a sub-continent side not named Bangladesh. A dominant bowling display by an ever-improving seam battery, led by Tim Southee.
Two battling captain's knocks by Ross Taylor - giving the embattled skipper enough ammo to give the critics who question his leadership abilities a fair blast across the bows. But questions do remain. Only a year ago we saw a similar stunning one-off test victory, over Australia at Hobart, which was followed up by one more against Zimbabwe, and then a run that saw the Black Caps lose six of their next eight.
Is Colombo simply a fresh sticking plaster for the national team, covering what is in reality a gaping wound?
Taylor hopes not. He admits that there was a lot of disappointment in the team following their 10-wicket loss in the first test at Galle, and although the second test was a step in the right direction, the Black Caps still have much to do.
"As a team and management, we were disappointed with the fight that we showed in Galle, or lack of it," Taylor said.
"We're still a long way from where we want to be. We're going to enjoy this win as a test match, we don't win overseas in a test match - in the sub-continent especially."
Taylor's knocks of 142 and 74 in Colombo were both gutsy and timely, after he failed badly in Galle.
Although his test batting average as skipper is an impressive 49.86 (compared to his overall test average of 43.57), questions continue to swirl around whether Taylor is the man to lead the side into the future - especially given the long-hyped relationship between new coach Mike Hesson and vice-captain Brendon McCullum.
New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White has called for a comprehensive post-tour review of where the Black Caps are at, including looking at Taylor's abilities as the skipper.
Such a review is usual, Taylor said, adding that he can only do what he can do on the pitch.
"All I wanted to do was lead from the front. That's my leadership style. I can't control what other people say. I was happy with how I performed in the last game - but there's still a long way to go. I'm learning a lot along the way."
Southee, who collected 12 wickets at 13.83 in the two Sri Lankan tests, said the team were behind him. Taylor led from the front in Galle, and his century showed his class, the in-form seamer said.
Taylor and co have a bigger test challenge ahead.
Once they've got three Twenty20 internationals against the South Africans out of the way in late December, the Black Caps will take on the current No 1 test team in two tests in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth in January.
The exact size of the Colombo sticking plaster, or whether or not the wound beneath it is healing, will then be revealed.
POSSIBLE TEST SIDE FOR SOUTH AFRICA
Ross Taylor (c), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Peter Fulton, Daniel Flynn, Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Tim Southee, Daniel Vettori, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling (w/k), Kane Williamson
Sunday Star Times