NZ starting to show consistency - Southee
If they beat India in Auckland, New Zealand will win the series against the world champions, to go with ODI series victories in South Africa and England. All this in the span of a year. Three successive wins over a top side like India will mean so much to New Zealand, often thought of as a lukewarm drawcard in cricketing and financial terms.
One reason for that is their inability to string together consistent performances, especially against the big sides. New Zealand had the chance to beat West Indies at home recently, but lost the final game to end the series 2-2. Consistency is what their captain Brendon McCullum and coach Mike Hesson have been saying New Zealand would like to achieve, and Tim Southee thinks they have started to do it.
"We have always been competitive in limited-overs cricket," Southee said. "We have shown we can beat anyone on our day. It is the consistency we are starting to show. We are not where we want to be. We are starting to get there. Good sides win series consistently and that is where we want to get."
A win at Eden Park will seal this one for New Zealand but as Southee said, India are too good a side to just roll over. What has been encouraging for New Zealand is that they came through the first two games in Napier and Hamilton despite both being hard-fought affairs, especially the one at McLean Park. Southee said the team management had liberated the players enough for them to play freely, and the results were starting to show now.
"We are playing an aggressive, attacking style of cricket," he said. "That is the approach Brendon and Mike (coach Hesson) have brought to this side.
"They have worked very well together and it is showing that we can go out there and play our natural game freely. We are a naturally exciting batting line-up and have got ball strikers all the way down. If they go out there and put the runs on the board as they have, it will allow us bowlers to be aggressive all the way through the innings."
Perhaps the only sore point for New Zealand has been the number of catches that have gone down. McCullum called for more "attention" on the field from his men after the Hamilton match, but felt the ground-fielding had been decent.
Southee said fielding was something New Zealand sides had prided themselves on for a number of years. "We want to be the best fielding side in the world and have got some exceptional fielders. The likes of (Martin) Guptill and the two McCullums. And Jesse (Ryder) throws himself around as well. The bowlers work hard on it and it is important we have got ten guys and a wicketkeeper out there who can field."
The eleven men will have to come together for a third, all-out burst on Saturday. It is rare territory for a New Zealand side to be in. It will be rarer still if they can conquer it.
Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo