After hibernating almost five months, New Zealand's Test game is about to reboot.
The team is undefeated in six Test series, extending to the England tour two years ago when the hosts' pace attack shredded New Zealand's second innings at Lord's for 68, and ten wickets from Graeme Swann, the first by a spinner in a match for 41 years at Headingley, ensured further humiliation.
Lessons were learned that enabled the New Zealanders to begin transitioning into the world's third-ranked side.
Combine that Test success with the confidence gained from getting to their maiden World Cup final. That makes this New Zealand side a contender for the best team to have represented the country. Consistency, talent and ruthlessness have met at an optimum juncture.
New Zealand will be under no illusion that England, regardless of the rancour surrounding Kevin Pietersen, will be a threat at home. Those who batted at Lord's last time will be wary as Stuart Broad and James Anderson gallop in, reminded of the fourth day in 2013.
That's where coach Mike Hesson might help. Hesson has not been occupied - or distracted, depending on your perspective - by an IPL contract. During his reign he has instituted means of trawling for cricketing intelligence that would impress J Edgar Hoover. His laptop creaks open, due to being stuffed full of batting, bowling and fielding minutiae.
However, there must be concerns that captain Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Trent Boult and Tim Southee, arguably New Zealand's most pivotal Test players, are underdone. Their only red-ball practice will have been whatever they could fit around IPL training.
McCullum gave such preparation-based theories scant credibility in 2008. He swaggered in from the IPL and made a run-a-ball 97, but he is a rare species in the Test habitat. In contrast, Williamson, a man of meticulous method, faces an unfamiliar scenario to ensure Test readiness. He has only played two innings for Sunrisers Hyderabad, making 26 not out and 5. The last was on April 13.
The way Matt Henry handled being left out of the World Cup squad initially, his subsequent Plunket Shield form, and the benefit of being under McCullum's eye at Chennai Super Kings point towards a possible debut
From a more encouraging perspective, Hesson and McCullum look almost certain to recall Martin Guptill. What appeared a conundrum choosing between Guptill and incumbent Hamish Rutherford at the start of the tour looks to have become clearer, when Guptill set up New Zealand's 15-run victory over Worcestershire in the four-day warm-up match.
The opener scored 150 off 210 balls, prompting Hesson to all but ink his name on the Lord's team sheet. Guptill made 35 off 53 balls in the first innings after his return from a side strain. His donning the pads first indicated he already had the edge over Rutherford to partner Tom Latham.
"His tempo over the whole innings was what you want to see from an opening batsman," Hesson said. "He's done exactly what you want from a player who hasn't played the last Test. He's fought hard to get back in the squad, put in a decisive warm-up performance today and is in strong consideration."
Guptill's last Test was two years ago, at Headingley. He was deemed to have defensive frailties at Test level. This season he has been in form at Derbyshire, scoring 451 runs at an average of 112.75, including a first-class best of 227 against Gloucestershire.
His resume also includes being the top run scorer at the World Cup. He made 547 at 68.37, with a strike rate of 104.58. His coup de grace, 237 not out in the quarter-final against West Indies in Wellington, was the highest score in 11 editions of the tournament.
Rutherford also delivered runs after 37 and 11 against Somerset. He made 75 off 140 balls at New Road to anchor New Zealand's first innings. Batting at No. 3, he entered in the third over and hit just five boundaries, a rarity for a player who loves punctuating the rope, particularly from cover point to mid-off.
Hesson and McCullum must decide if doubt has been erased over whether Rutherford succumbs to temptation too often when presented with a wealth of juicy deliveries outside off stump. He drives as well as anyone, but if he's picked, England will be sure to stack the slip cordon and pitch it up, given he took the bait in 2013.
Elsewhere, Matt Henry shapes as a prospect to claim the third pace-bowling spot from incumbent Doug Bracewell and reliable Neil Wagner. As a right-armer, there will be a consideration that Henry balances the attack if left-armer Corey Anderson replaces injured right-arm Jimmy Neesham as the allrounder. Henry was the major victim when the 15-man World Cup squad was picked, missing out to Southee, Boult, Adam Milne, Mitchell McClenaghan and Kyle Mills. The way he handled the initial disappointment, his subsequent Plunket Shield form, and the possible benefit of being under McCullum's eye at Chennai Super Kings point towards a possible debut.
As Milne's replacement, Henry bowled respectable spells in the World Cup semi-final and final, including taking the wickets of Australians David Warner and Michael Clarke at the MCG.
However, Bracewell's 55 wickets at an average of 35.10 in 19 Tests and Wagner's 58 wickets at 34.48 in 16 are respectable numbers. Both delivered strong spells against Somerset and Worcestershire, as did Henry, who took the final three wickets for 58 runs off 11.2 overs in the second innings to help win the latter match.
Henry might be an option to take advantage of grass on any pitch. The English Duke balls have a prouder seam than the Kookaburra brand used in New Zealand, and Henry's skill set might suit, especially if he bowls his familiar full length to maximise swing. He took six wickets at 20.83 in the List A games on last year's New Zealand A tour of England, and seven wickets at 15.85 in the first-class match against Surrey at The Oval, including a return of 5 for 18 in the first innings.
Before his World Cup call-up, he bowled regularly at first-class level, taking 20 wickets at 28.55 in six matches for Canterbury.
The onus now is on Hesson and McCullum to assess the competing parties at the first all-in team training tomorrow at the Nursery, as New Zealand pursue their second victory at Lord's in 17 attempts. The sole success came in 1999.
Andrew Alderson is cricket writer at New Zealand's Herald on Sunday