The Black Caps are tempering expectations following their impressive Cricket World Cup warm-up win over India, and with good reason.
While playing the underdog tag has often been the Kiwi cricket way, New Zealand are well aware their crushing six-wicket victory over one of the big tournament favourites had one big red herring attached to it.
In a word: swing.
It’s the thing that bowlers around the world have been craving out of the white ball in recent years, and what makes New Zealand a particularly dangerous side when it’s about.
But since the last World Cup, when Black Caps opening bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee wreaked havoc, signs of movement have been few and far between, as batting sides continue to rack up large totals.
That’s why the sight of the Kookaburra zipping around in the first innings at The Oval on Saturday night (NZ time) was a welcome, but aberrant sight for the Black Caps’ bowling department.
Added to the quirk was that with the pitch sporting a reasonable covering of grass, India captain Virat Kohli opted to bat in order to put his side under some pre-tournament pressure.
They certainly got that, with Boult rocking the top-order in striking in each of his first three overs on his way to 4-33 off 6.2, with India humbled for a paltry 179 more than 10 overs shy of their allotted 50, before the deck flattened out for a comfortable Kiwi chase anchored by half centuries to captain Kane Williamson (67 off 87 balls) and Ross Taylor (71 off 75).
But while Boult said his side would take some confidence out of their hitout, the leader of the New Zealand attack was well aware the conditions laid on in London first-up were surely an anomaly.
“Nice to see it swinging around a little bit,” he said. “I’d love to expect that everywhere, but it looks like there’s some good wickets around the country and it looks like it’s going to be a good challenge.
“If the ball’s swinging round like that I think we know what to do.
“But the biggest challenge will be when it’s not swinging and nipping around a little bit, then how do we take wickets?”
Indeed, a high-scoring tournament is expected. Seven of the eight completed innings in this month’s England-Pakistan ODI series saw scores in excess of 340.
The 400-mark has now been surpassed 20 times, with eight of those coming at or since the last World Cup.
Boult admitted seeing massive scores like that was “a little bit intimidating” but that on the flip side, many of them were also getting chased down.
He hopes the ball can still play a role in ODI cricket, and knows full well how imperative it can be for a team to strike early these days when in the field.
“We know what early wickets does to the batting side. We want to be as aggressive as we can to get into any team’s batting order.
“As bowlers, that’s pretty much our basic plan, and for me it’s about pitching the ball up and trying to swing the ball round as much as I can.
“The conditions are very good, it looks like there’s some good wickets to bat on, but we know if we put the ball in the right areas, take early wickets, then it looks like that’s a good way to stop any opposition.”
New Zealand’s second and final warm-up fixture is against the West Indies at Bristol, starting Tuesday night (NZT), where seamer Matt Henry can expect to get a run after being left out of the 13 to face India, while wicketkeeper Tom Latham remains doubtful due to his finger injury.
The Black Caps tournament gets underway against Sri Lanka at Cardiff on Saturday night (NZT).
AT A GLANCE
India 179 (R Jadeja 54, H Pandya 30; T Boult 4-33, J Neesham 3-26) lost to New Zealand 180-4 (R Taylor 71, K Williamson 67) by six wickets.