Sri Lanka in New Zealand 2014-15 December 23, 2014

Watling wants 'bounce and carry'

Trent Boult's emergence has been a major factor in New Zealand's recent resurgence © Getty Images

New Zealand have fast-bowling aces. This is now well understood. The world may only have fully awoken to the talents of Trent Boult and Tim Southee in the past 18 months, but Sri Lanka has known them a little longer. When the teams last met in Tests in 2012, they had been victims of New Zealand's first hints of resurgence.

One searing, cloudless second morning in Galle on that tour, on pitch that had already begun to pour off dust, Southee and Boult summoned a fearsome dual spell - a novelty for them then, though it is routine now. Southee was curving them away from the right handers; Boult bending them back in. Some balls beat edges, others dived at the stumps like snakes smelling prey. Sri Lanka were 50 for 5 in that match before a recovery was staged.

New Zealand would eventually lose the game, extending their string of Test losses to five on the trot. Their next match in Colombo, though, when Ross Taylor hit a century knowing he would be replaced as captain, would be won. The batting had finally come good in that Test, but it had been the quicks' continued excellence that defined the series.

As they prepare for the first Boxing Day Test in New Zealand in 11 years, Southee and Boult will rely on the memory of their many outstanding spells since that series, to give shape to yet another, wicketkeeper BJ Watling said.

"They're both very fit guys," he said of New Zeland's new-ball pair. "They work hard and make sure they are strong and ready to go. I guess experience and confidence comes into it - they've been bowling well for a while now, and they've learned their way, and learned to be really patient at times and really aggressive at times. That experience is crucial to them doing really well."

Though they only shared five scalps between them on a spin-friendly surface in the recent Sharjah Test, the pair have reclaimed their venom bowling for Northern Districts. Watling, who keeps to them in domestic cricket, as well as in Tests, gave a first-hand account of Boult and Southee's most recent outing, when they claimed 14 scalps between them in Hamilton.

"A lot of people have been saying it's been a good wicket, Hagley Oval. I've never played on it before, but hopefully there will be a bit of bounce and carry for us, and that can really test the Sri Lankan team. I'd say it's good for Southee and Boult. Hopefully it's swinging around as well. I've just watched them demolish Wellington last week and that was good fun."

But as fine as Boult and Southee's partnership is, Watling said New Zealand did not expect Sri Lanka to wither without resistance. The visitors have won a Test series in England, in June, and have put together a top order light on big names but packing verve.

"They're definitely not a team to be taken lightly," Watling said. "I watched that game in England and they played some very good cricket. They're going to be a challenge for us - they're a strong team. But hopefully in our conditions we can put them under a lot of pressure.

"Their team is a bit younger in terms of the batting. Without Mahela Jayawardene there - it's a big loss for them. But they've definitely got some good young players coming through, and it's probably their chance to stand up now. They've also still got Kumar Sangakkara, who is world class."

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

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