Not so many months ago, one-day internationals were New Zealand's horror show. And that's saying something.
Last year, either side of the change in coach, the Black Caps embarked on an awful run of form in 50-over cricket; 10 defeats in 11 completed matches. It sank them to ninth on the world rankings, below Bangladesh.
But if the South African tour set back their test cricket even further, it finally breathed life into the format New Zealand have traditionally been strongest in. They were World Cup semifinalists in 2011 and made the Champions Trophy final in 2009.
The rejuvenation in South Africa, when they led 2-0 then lost the dead rubber off the last delivery, was well overdue. And as captain Brendon McCullum tries to quickly bin Friday's 10-wicket hiding in the Twenty20 series decider in Wellington ahead of today's ODI opener in Hamilton, it is the triumphs of Paarl and Kimberley that offer cause for optimism.
"Given recent results I think it is [our best format]. It's not so frenetic and you can still play OK in parts of the game, but you're not necessarily out of it. [On Friday] we were out of the game pretty quickly," McCullum said.
"In one-day cricket, because it lasts longer, you're able to fight your way back into the game. We've got a reasonable gameplan in one-day cricket, especially with our batting, and we welcome back Kyle Mills who's an experienced bowler for us."
In a hint of things to come in the test series, McCullum will slip down to No 5 in the ODIs, as he did in South Africa. BJ Watling and Kane Williamson return, the former partnering Martin Guptill at the top, who wasn't back to his best, but still averaged 50 in the T20s.
Ross Taylor, who sat out South Africa, struggled in his international comeback with 23 runs from three T20 innings and desperately needs runs in his home city.
Senior paceman Mills returns, while left-armer Mitchell McClenaghan will look to continue his energy from South Africa. McCullum said their fighting spirit in South Africa would continue.
"We expected to win the T20 series so to lose it, we're disappointed about that. We bounced back strongly in that second game and expect us to bounce back strongly in the first game of the one-dayers," McCullum said. "That's a characteristic of this team that we are showing at the moment, our ability to bounce back and we're going to have to do so because England will be reasonably confident after this performance, albeit with a new squad of theirs coming in."
New Zealand have, mercifully, moved back above Bangladesh to eighth in the world while England are second, just behind India, after an impressive 12 months, where they won 14 from 20 ODIs. Their recent series went down to the wire, a 2-2 draw at home against South Africa, then a 3-2 defeat in India.
Depth isn't an issue in England. Their openers Alex Hales and Michael Lumb, who blasted them to a 10-wicket victory on Friday, can't make the ODI team. It's virtually their test lineup, with skipper Alistair Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann and James Anderson joining in. Kevin Pietersen is the only big name missing and will arrive for the test series after taking a rest.
Victorious skipper Stuart Broad, who hands over the reins to Cook, wasn't sure if their T20 momentum would count for anything.
"We go back to Hamilton where New Zealand have got a pretty good record against us. We've not met up as a one-day group yet, we catch up with each other, no training, then straight into the game, so it's a pretty tight schedule.
"It's important we hit the ground running because the ODI series is over in six days and there's no time with any slip ups," Broad said.
"The guys who've had a month off will be finding their way back into cricket and it's not the easiest place to do it in internationals."
- Sunday Star Times
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