New Zealand will bank on a more specialised bowling attack for the series against South Africa than they have in the past. With a four-pronged pace attack for the Tests, and four spinners to choose from in the limited-overs matches, stand-in captain Brendon McCullum said New Zealand's current make-up is perhaps the strongest it has ever been.
"We've got a nice balance between our seam bowlers and our spinners. In the past we operated with a few more fiddly bowlers rather than specialists," McCullum said ahead of the first Twenty20 in Wellington. "I think that's one of the things we do possess at the moment: legitimate seam and legitimate spin bowling."
New Zealand's spinners - three may feature in the first match - are being talked about as a trump card. Canterbury's slow bowlers restricted South Africa's batsmen in the tour match, and although the visitors have performed well against spin in recent times, a residue of their reputation for struggling against spin remains.
McCullum watched the tour match and took someimportant lessons from it. "The Canterbury spinners bowled really well," he said. "It was a little bit different for the South Africans as well because, having [had] such a good start they tried to push the run-rate, so maybe they became a little more susceptible to changes of pace."
South Africa scored only 52 runs in the last eight overs of their tour match and McCullum said he expected them to show greater intent in the internationals. "They will go up a gear from yesterday. They looked like they were just trying to blow a few cobwebs out."
McCullum hoped the trio of Rob Nicol, Nathan McCullum and Ronnie Hira will be able to repeat that success. "That [spin] is one of the areas we think we are reasonably strong," McCullum said. "Hopefully if we can give our spinners the opportunity to get into the game early, they'll be able to settle into their work and put them [South Africa] under some pressure.
"There's a couple of things that we think we might be able to exploit. "Across the board they are a pretty solid team and we know we will have to execute at our best to succeed. There's some areas where we think we may be able to expose them."
Before looking to exploit South Africa's weaknesses, McCullum said he will impress on his group the need to lay foundations first. In the second Twenty20 against Zimbabwe, New Zealand were tested for the first time in the series and looked rushed and even vulnerable at times. McCullum said they could not repeat such "giddy execution," and he will make sure there is an air of calm before they take the field against South Africa.
"We have to make sure we execute the basics before we get too tactically funky. If we do the basics well it will give us the opportunity to try and exploit some of those areas that we think we can target."
Like South Africa, New Zealand also have one eye on the World Twenty20 later in the year but McCullum was not looking too far ahead. "You do have to look at what's down the track but our focus is on making sure we start the series well. It's a big series for us."