Just when Sri Lanka thought batting would be easier without new-ball pair Tim Southee and Trent Boult after the Test series, a more damaging New Zealand duo stepped up to the plate in the first one-dayer between the sides in Christchurch on Saturday.
Matt Henry and Adam Milne reduced the visitors to 27 for five inside 10 overs at Hagley Oval in the opener of the five-match series as New Zealand cruised to a seven-wicket victory.
Henry, who struggled in Australia last month and took just two wickets for 158 runs in the drawn second Test in Perth, produced an outstanding opening six-over spell on Saturday with figures of 4-26. He finished with 4-49 from 10 overs.
Both he and Milne regularly clocked in excess of 140km per hour, with the fiery Milne exceeding 150kph on several deliveries, a far cry from the 130-140kph range that Southee and Boult delivered in the Test series against Sri Lanka.
What was most important for New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, however, was that with Test seamer Doug Bracewell, who impressed on Saturday with 3-37, and left-arm quick Mitchell McClenaghan, he now has a deep pace bowling unit to choose from.
“I think both Adam Milne and Matt Henry with the new ball back in their hands were outstanding for us,” McCullum said in a televised interview.
“I thought Mitchell McClenaghan and Doug Bracewell were outstanding as well,” he added after McClenaghan picked up two wickets with his aggressive bowling rearing off a length on a pitch that was described as a “belter” by both captains.
Southee and Boult have been rested for at least the first two matches, with left-armer Boult not available until the fourth match in Nelson on January 2.
McCullum, however, was not overly concerned.
“We have two outstanding bowlers in Trent Boult and Tim Southee, who are vastly experienced and have been the kingpins for us for a long time,” he said.
“For them not to be in this line-up and for the guys to have stepped up like they did today was very pleasing for everyone.
“We are lucky at the moment that we are building some depth and the boys are going okay.
“Nobody would want to be rotated out of the squad.”
Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews regretted that his bowlers were not as threatening.
“It’s not easy to bowl at Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill,” he said.
“They are power hitters and they go after the bowling from the very beginning. We just need to bowl in the right areas more often.”
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport