In Hobart last December, after winning a Test in Australia for the first time in 26 years, New Zealand celebrated their achievement in a new way. The players strolled out to the pitch in their whites, sang a team song, and settled down to enjoy a few drinks to mark the moment. They did it again in Napier after hammering Zimbabwe. Tim Southee said the acting-captain Brendon McCullum was the brains behind the celebration and that New Zealand wanted to make it an often-repeated ritual.
"It's a pledge which has been around a long time," Southee said. "Brendon McCullum has been driving it. It's something we will make a tradition as Test wins keep coming."
Of their four Tests this summer, New Zealand have won three, and Southee hoped victory would become a habit for this team. "It's a great thing to win Test matches. It's an amazing feeling and we are slowly making a bit of a habit of it. Hopefully we can have this group of guys together for a long time and keep that winning feeling."
In each of those victories, New Zealand displayed a different aspect of their recent development: strong temperament in tight game in Bulawayo, the ability to beat some of the best in Hobart and ruthlessness in Napier. The innings-and-301-run victory at McLean Park could have been more emphatic if most of the second day had not been washed out.
"If the rain hadn't come it could have been all over in two days or two and a half days," Southee said. "It was a dream day. Days like that are what you play Test cricket for. It was a great to have a win, and to win so convincingly and build on that game from Hobart."
Like they did at Bellerive Oval, New Zealand played four fast bowlers in Napier, on a pitch that assisted the quicks. Seventeen wickets fell to pace, eight of them to Chris Martin, as Zimbabwe were dismissed twice in a day. "We went with the four-seamer attack again. In the first innings everyone chipped in," Southee said. "But, in the second innings, it was just an outstanding individual performance by Chris. The way he bowled showed there's still a bit of kick in the old boy yet."
With Martin guiding the young bowlers such as Southee, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell, Southee said New Zealand had a good balance. "The experience of the older guys and the excitement of the young guys mixed in is great. We are very excited about what the future holds."
The immediate future holds three ODIs and two Twenty20s against Zimbabwe before the series against South Africa, which Southee calls "the key of the summer," starting with three T20s and three ODIs. The glut of limited-overs cricket means New Zealand will have to make a speedy adjustment to the format, and Southee was confident they would. "It wasn't that long ago that we had a white ball in our hands and it shouldn't take too long to adapt back to that," he said. "It will just be a narrowing down of skills and practicing death and slower balls, change of pace and things like that."
New Zealand's first ODI against Zimbabwe is in Dunedin on February 3.