Nathan Astle will have to rediscover his form at domestic level © AFP

Nathan Astle and Craig McMillan were the two biggest casualties as New Zealand's selectors made widespread changes for the opening two matches of the one-day series against Sri Lanka starting on December 31. Five players were dropped from the squad that lost the Chappell-Hadlee Series to Australia, and Astle and McMillan were told to re-find their form in the domestic scene.

Three weeks ago Astle was being touted as part of a World Cup opening partnership with Lou Vincent, but he was dumped following scores of 14, 22 and 14 against Australia while McMillan was axed after failing to pass 11 in his past four matches. James Marshall, James Franklin and Chris Martin were also dropped following the 2-1 series loss while Hamish Marshall won a reprieve.

"The selectors were unanimous in the decision to select Hamish," John Bracewell, the coach, said. "We acknowledge his recent lack of form but believe he will turn it around. We were also conscious of the need to retain continuity within the squad and not to make wholesale changes."

Stability may have returned with Stephen Fleming moving back into the captaincy role after Daniel Vettori stood in against Australia, but Shane Bond and Andre Adams were recalled alongside the uncapped Jamie How and Peter Fulton, who played an ODI against Bangladesh in 2004. "How and Fulton have been selected after showing consistent form in domestic cricket and New Zealand A," Bracewell said.

"Looking towards the World Cup, if we are going to create competition for World Cup places now is the appropriate time." The four-match series begins at Queenstown on December 31 and finishes at Napier on January 8.