After being ranked ninth in the world last year, the New Zealand team is now eyeing back-to-back ODI series wins over South Africa and England.
Those are the spoils awaiting New Zealand tonight on the usual McLean Park belter, buoyed by their cool, calculated pursuit of 259 in Hamilton.
Given the way this tour's gone so far, who knows what twists and turns await. Four matches, two wins apiece, and the last time these sides met in a Napier ODI in 2008 it was a tie when England blasted 340-6 and New Zealand only took six off Luke Wright's solitary over at the death.
There's a bit to like about New Zealand's recent ODI efforts, and comforting to know this is the basket they're placing their eggs for the 2015 World Cup.
They've found a formula that works with bat and ball. Skipper Brendon McCullum is booked for the long haul at No 6, identifying the last 20 overs as his most effective.
With just four fielders now allowed outside the circle, there's more scope for the chasing team, and McCullum's savage pull shots and calm head propelled his side home with assistance from the hamstrung Martin Guptill.
McCullum's two ODIs at McLean Park last summer saw him hit 85 off 96 in a losing cause against South Africa, and 119 off 88 as New Zealand racked up 373-8 against Zimbabwe.
England captain Alistair Cook felt their team would be much better for the run in Hamilton and New Zealand generally struggle to put two together, although in South Africa they wrapped up the series early in Paarl and Kimberley.
Tellingly, two of the Black Caps' form players are gone for the series; Guptill (hamstring) and Mitchell McClenaghan, who tore a muscle in his side in Hamilton and is out for four to six weeks, making the return tour to England in May his target.
With 2-0 beckoning, New Zealand is going for the jugular with their best bowler Tim Southee back ahead of schedule for McClenaghan. Southee was outstanding before tearing ligaments in his left thumb in December and returned from surgery with a nine-wicket haul in the Plunket Shield for Northern against Wellington.
He feels ready after three weeks bowling, and will likely form a three-pronged pace attack with Hamilton standout Kyle Mills and Trent Boult, with Andrew Ellis likely to miss out and James Franklin and Grant Elliott needing to share 10 overs.
Mills said the Hamilton win was encouraging because they showed similar traits to the South African tour of fighting back in the second half of each innings. England were 184-2 and lost 8-74.
"They [England and South Africa] are the two best sides going around at the moment and there's no hiding the fact we've been through a pretty rough patch so to have two big series wins would be fantastic," Mills said.
Left-hander Hamish Rutherford gets another crack for Guptill after an encouraging T20 debut.
"We're playing the best team in the world, good bowlers, so it's very exciting ... my approach is similar but it's not probably as aggressive."
England, the world's second ranked side, won't tinker too much with their team and will feel confident of bouncing back. Their powerful batting lineup led by Cook and Ian Bell will be hard to contain on McLean Park, and bowling first seems the best option.
In the last three ODIs in Napier against major opposition, South Africa chased down 231 a year ago, Pakistan chased 263 the previous year and New Zealand overhauled 276 to beat Australia in the Scott Styris-Mitchell Johnson headbutt game in 2010.
The weather forecast is excellent although ticket sales are sluggish, with about 5000 having gone yesterday in a cricket capacity of about 12,000.
HOW THEY LINE UP
What: New Zealand v England, second one-day international
Where: McLean Park, Napier
When: 2pm today, live on Sky Sport 1
TAB odds: NZ $2.25, England $1.60
New Zealand (from): BJ Watling, Hamish Rutherford, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott, Brendon McCullum (captain), James Franklin, Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Trent Boult, Andrew Ellis, Colin Munro.
England (from): Alastair Cook (captain), Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Steven Finn, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Samit Patel, James Tredwell, James Harris.
Umpires: Rod Tucker (Australia), Chris Gaffaney (NZ).
Third umpire: S Ravi (India).
- © Fairfax NZ News
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