Befitting the lofty status of a cricket tour of England, New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum offered some bold pronouncements as he touched down from India.
Top of the list was his belief that the current squad could be even better than the team of the 1980s, which recorded New Zealand's first win in England at Headingley in 1983. New Zealand have won just four tests from 50 attempts in England; the last victory in 1999 during their memorable 2-1 series win.
Asked about the 1980s team, which included New Zealand greats Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe, McCullum said: "It's hard to compare eras. The team of the early 1980s achieved some excellent things, but these guys are excellent players and have the potential to be equal if not better than what they were."
McCullum was granted a early release from his Indian Premier League team the Kolkata Knight Riders, having played just one game.
But despite arriving in Derby in time for the three-day tour match he was rested along with frontline pacemen Tim Southee and Trent Boult, and Ross Taylor, who was scheduled to arrive from India yesterday.
The tourists posted 289-5 declared on day one, with Dean Brownlie scoring a confidence-boosting 71. Neil Wagner snared the first wicket of the two-month tour to leave Derbyshire to 24-1 in reply.
McCullum watched from the dressing room and spoke of his high hopes for the tour, which includes two tests, three ODIs and the Champions Trophy. Confidence wasn't an issue, it appeared, after the 0-0 home test series against the world No 2 side.
"I thought we deserved to win the series against England. The guys were absolutely heartbroken by not getting across the line. But it was one of those things; it was a gripping series.
"From where we were at the start of that series, especially after a tough South African tour, to where we sat at the end, we could take an immense amount of pride in the characteristics that we showed on the field."
New Zealand are the warmup act for the Champions Trophy and the five Ashes tests against Australia which follow. The Champions Trophy offers New Zealand a chance to show where their ODI cricket stacks up less than two years out from the World Cup, but McCullum's most prized possession would be the trophy from the two-test series starting at Lord's on May 16.
"To me test cricket is still the pinnacle of the game. So to achieve a test series win on the back of the series we've just had would be the biggest win that I've been involved in my time with New Zealand cricket."
New Zealand made a shaky start against what was described as a second-string Derbyshire attack. Openers Peter Fulton (21) and Hamish Rutherford (13) fell cheaply, then Martin Guptill, who had the most to gain from the warmup match against his county team, couldn't cash in.
In his first innings since mid-February when he strained his hamstring against England, Guptill was caught behind for 20 to give left-armer Mark Footitt one of his four wickets.
Brownlie, the incumbent No 5, needed runs after a disappointing home series in which he averaged 27. He enjoyed a breezy knock of 71 off 109 balls.
Gloveman BJ Watling topscored with 77 not out before stand-in captain Kane Williamson declared. The test No 3 had a tidy first shakedown, scoring 43 in nearly two hours.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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