It didn't seem like Doug Bracewell, coming off a knee injury and a 100-hour community service sentence following a drink-driving offence, and Todd Astle, who described his ODI debut as a "dream come true", hadn't played international cricket for the last year. They found their rhythm from the outset, and combined to take seven wickets in the first ODI, leading New Zealand to a five-wicket win in Whangarei.
"The first couple of games I was nervous and I guess anxious at the same time," Bracewell said after his 4 for 55 in the first ODI. "I wasn't quite sure how I was going to go after a winter of rehab and a bit of hard work. I'm not going to lie, it was pretty tough. I was quite sore but I managed to get through and now it seems to get better each day."
Since slipping in a domestic match last December, Bracewell said he has been working on improving his knee as well as his batting. "It's one of those things that we've got to manage and monitor," he said. "But it's improved a hell of a lot over the last couple of weeks. There's definitely positive signs there.
"It's (batting) something I've been working pretty hard at lately. I've been given the opportunity for Central Districts to go out and sort of play with some freedom at six or seven and I've managed to have a good start for the season so I'm feeling really good with the bat. I'm hoping I can show I've got the ability down at No 8, No 7."
Astle, on the other hand, said his focus was on developing variations with his legspin to improve his repertoire. "Any little bit of doubt you can create, that's what I'm trying to bring with bowling those variations and wrong 'uns," Astle said. "You're only going to be unknown for a certain period of time. There will now be lots of video footage, so it's just trying to stay one step ahead."
New Zealand will be without Kane Williamson and Tim Southee, who have been rested, for the remainder of the ODI series. Tom Latham will lead New Zealand in Williamson's absence. The next ODI is on Saturday in Christchurch.