Tim Southee struggles to recall two more complete performances than those which have New Zealand on the brink of a one-day cricket series victory over India.
Having gone back-to-back, the big challenge now is to unveil a ruthless streak and finish the job at Auckland's Eden Park tomorrow with two matches to spare.
Southee became the 15th New Zealand bowler to reach 100 ODI wickets when he snared 4-72 in India's innings of 277-9, as the tourists fell 15 runs short on Duckworth-Lewis in Hamilton.
The 25-year-old debuted against England in 2008 and in 76 ODIs has seen a few decent Black Caps victories, but most of them have been in isolation before the Napier-Hamilton double this past week.
"That's two of the best team performances we've had a for a long time and to back it up game after game is what good sides do, they perform consistently and that's where we're aiming to be," Southee said.
If New Zealand wrap up the series against India they'll finally climb past West Indies to seventh on the world rankings.
In the past year, Brendon McCullum's ODI side have beaten South Africa and England in away series, but Southee believed this set a new benchmark.
"I think back to watching South Africa, the guys played outstandingly and that started the ball rolling. We won that series, then we competed well against England here then we won a series over in England," Southee said.
"We've showed glimpses in the past but we needed consistency. It's not just individuals standing up, it's everyone standing up at different times. That's the sign of a good side, not relying on the same people every game."
It used to be that Ross Taylor and McCullum were the big two hopes for New Zealand's batting. Now with the blueprint firmly in place, Jesse Ryder has licence to blaze away at the top then Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson - Wednesday's man of the match for his 77 off 87 balls - anchor the innings with Taylor taking them into the power play with wickets in hand in the final 15 overs.
Power hitters Corey Anderson, McCullum, Luke Ronchi and Nathan McCullum get to swing freely, and in both Napier and Hamilton the batting totals were just out of India's reach. Anderson's added the x-factor with a combined 112 off 57 balls including nine sixes.
The bowlers get licence to attack, led by the aggressive Mitchell McClenaghan. Runs might leak, but with a big total on the board they've been able to hunt wickets. Anderson chimed in with some crucial late strikes on Wednesday and Southee snared the key wicket of Virat Kohli. McCullum felt the fielding could have been sharper but it didn't cost them.
McCullum hinted strongly that paceman Hamish Bennett would get his chance on the quickest pitch of the series at Eden Park where India can expect another short-pitched examination.
"They [India] are not going to come out and roll over. We know they will be harder again and will be getting used to the conditions. We'll have to be better again and keep improving," Southee said.
Ryder was given the all-clear yesterday after he left the field with an injured finger when trying to catch a guided missile off Kohli's bat. No x-rays were required and Ryder is expected to train today.
Kohli, with scores of 123 and 78, remains a headache for New Zealand as any target looks gettable with him at the crease.
Taylor issued the following Twitter plea yesterday: "Anyone got any ideas on how to get Kohli out before he gets to 50?"
Southee enticed Kohli into a false pull shot when on the charge in Hamilton and demanded better from the bowlers.
"He's one of the best, if not the best one-day player going around. In the first two games he adapted to conditions quickly and we know we've got our work cut out. We've got plans in place and I think we can be better at those plans when he first comes out."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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