McCullum excited by emerging depth
In the immediate aftermath of seeing a series victory prove agonisingly elusive it was understandably difficult for Brendon McCullum to look at the bigger picture. However, when he reflects on these contests against England he will be able to take huge pride in the strides made by his team over the last month, which have offered hope of a more stable future for New Zealand's Test cricket.
At the beginning of the series McCullum said he wanted his team to compete against England - his players exceeded those ambitions and twice pushed the visitors close to defeat. One of the most troubled areas for New Zealand, the openers, has been given new stability by the emergence of Hamish Rutherford and the rebirth of Peter Fulton, while the pace-bowling stocks are reasonably well resourced.
"There have been huge positives in this series," McCullum said. "The top of the order, which has been such a problem for so long, to have two guys coming into the series - Peter with his recall and Hamish with his debut - and both to get hundreds, and Peter to back it up, it's a great story I think. The bowlers as well, they have been huge throughout the series. There were some really nice positives, although right now it's hard to look past not getting the win."
After the problems in South Africa, McCullum said he wanted to identify a group of players and show faith in them rather that reacting to each setback. For the first time, New Zealand went through a three-Test series unchanged (England also only made one change, and that too enforced because Kevin Pietersen got injured) despite the intensity of back-to-back matches.
"It has been great for us to be able to do that, and playing the same team has enabled guys to work out where they fit in and how guys work around them," McCullum said. "Combinations start to formulate through familiarity. We've performed well enough to continue with the same XI guys and they were huge, especially the bowlers, and the other good thing is we have some excellent cricketers waiting in the wings. If we look back a couple of months we were searching a little, whereas now we are starting to bed down a group of players who are capable of moving the team forward."
A few of the New Zealand players now head to the IPL, although McCullum's early participation could be in doubt after the hamstring injury he picked up on the final day at Eden Park. Those who do have an IPL stint - Ross Taylor for one - are set to miss the opening match of the England tour, in the ongoing battle between the demands of the modern schedule, before arriving for the Lions game at Grace Road ahead of the first Test.
New Zealand will be able to enter the return series in confident mood and McCullum hopes that the team's performances over the last few weeks have given the supporters a lift.
"I hope they are proud of the characteristics we are showing at the moment, fighting characteristics and the ability to at least hang in games against the best players on a consistent basis," he said. "We know we've let our fans down over the last little while, but we are hoping we are starting to trend in that right direction."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo