Fire at will: Trent Boult, Tim Southee find ideal stage to launch in tandem in 2017
Watching Trent Boult top 145kmh on the speed radar at Mt Maunganui was as good a sign as any for Kane Williamson.
Combined with Tim Southee's eight-wicket haul in their previous test, the Hamilton heart-stopper against Pakistan in November, and New Zealand's captain is confident his dynamic duo are finally back in business.
The artists formerly known as the best bowling one-two punch might be aided by minimal resistance from Bangladesh in Thursday's first test, on a typically green Basin Reserve pitch that seasoned observers rated softer than usual.
With minimal Wednesday sun to dry it, and rain and gale force winds forecast for day one, both sets of batsmen may face awkward seaming conditions for a bit longer than the two sessions it took to flatten out in February. Then, New Zealand's batsmen lasted just 48 overs against Australia who replied with 562 and cantered to an innings and 52 run victory.
The tourists, who were greeted by the 5.2 earthquake that wobbled the Vance Stand, spent time shadow batting on the emerald pitch, shaking their heads and quizzing groundsman Hagen Faith.
It's bowl first for both captains, with Williamson hinting at a predictable 11 with Matt Henry and Dean Brownlie missing out. He hopes to throw Boult and Southee the new ball at 11am confident they can fire in tandem after an indifferent last 18 months, with three big tests against South Africa looming in March.
"In recent years they've been looking to get back to that where the ball swung for a long period of time and they bowled quickly," Williamson said.
"They're certainly showing those signs again. Trent in the last T20 might have hit 145 or 146 which is really promising because we know when he's bowling fast and swinging it for a long time he's been one of the best bowlers in the world. We'll be hoping for more of that going into a lot of test matches in the next wee while."
Last year Boult snared 31 test wickets at 33 and Southee 27 at 32, placing them 15th and 20th on the world charts for 2016. Third seamer Neil Wagner was ninth, with a stellar 41 wickets at 21, and is currently ranked the highest at 11, with Boult and Southee filling the next two spots.
Boult took some punishment at Bay Oval but a rapid over downwind was the quickest Williamson had seen him bowl.
"When they said it was 145 I thought that was brilliant. I sort of wondered what delivery it was, then I heard he [Boult] bowled a few more of them. That's a good sign that he's getting rhythm.
"To be fair he's been bowling really well and he's a world class performer. For a couple of years him and Tim were at the top of their game and they've still been bowling really well even if it hasn't been the best that they've wanted. That's the class of those two and they're certainly getting back to that point."
For all that, the microscope will be on New Zealand's batting with Ross Taylor returning, one short of Martin Crowe's record of 17 test centuries, and Henry Nicholls and Colin de Grandhomme both needing to prove they're worthy of the Black Caps top six.
Bangladesh have a green pace attack with Taskin Ahmed set to debut at 21 alongside Rubel Hossain and Subashis Roy, with the impressive Mustafizur Rahman not being rushed into test cricket.
While the bowling has looked handy in six limited overs defeats, batting horrors remain for the tourists.
"It is time that we prove ourselves in overseas conditions. The batsmen have to take the biggest challenge," captain Mushfiqur Rahim said. "Some of them like Tamim, Shakib and Mahmudullah have done well in tests here in the past but now we need a collective effort from the batsmen, which we failed to do in the ODIs and T20s. We are capable so this is our opportunity to do it."
It's hard to argue with New Zealand being rated $1.20 favourites. Bangladesh have won three of their 43 tests overseas and, remarkably haven't played an away test since September 2014. On recent evidence they're struggling to close the gap, and in four tests in New Zealand their narrowest loss was by nine wickets in Dunedin in 2008.
AT A GLANCE
What: New Zealand v Bangladesh, first cricket test
Where: Basin Reserve, Wellington
When: 11am Thursday (day one)
TAB: NZ $1.20, Bangladesh $18, draw $4.50
NEW ZEALAND (likely): Tom Latham, Jeet Raval, Kane Williamson (captain), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Colin de Grandhomme, BJ Watling, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult
BANGLADESH (likely): Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Mominul Haque, Mahmudullah, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim (captain), Sabbir Rahman, Mehedi Hasan, Rubel Hossain, Taskin Ahmed, Subashis Roy