Sri Lanka v NZ preview
Captain Ross Taylor believes New Zealand can end a forgettable year on a high with a rare away Test series success against Sri Lanka.
The Black Caps have endured a miserable 12 months during which they have lost their past three Test series, crashed out of the World Twenty20 at the Super Eight stage and won just four of 14 one-day internationals.
Despite that Taylor believes there is reason for optimism as they prepare for the first of the two-Test series which begins in Galle on Saturday.
The Kiwis' fragility against spin has been well documented - they have only ever won one Test series on Sri Lankan soil and that was almost 30 years ago - but the current team went some way to disproving such thoughts during the tour of India earlier this year.
After succumbing to the twin spin threat of Ravichandran Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha in the first Test Taylor's men almost pulled off a memorable success in the second game after opting to attack the slow men.
Taylor led the way with a blistering century in that match and while his team ended up falling just short he insists a similar approach could be handsomely rewarded over the next month.
"We've got an opportunity to create some history," Taylor said.
"I think the way we played the last Test in India, the way we attacked spin, that's going to be crucial in this next match. We have to be positive.
"Obviously a lot of teams think that's a weakness of ours and if we show that's a strength of ours and play positive and aggressive cricket to their spinners, that bodes well for our batsmen.
"Hopefully we can string a few more partnerships together and instead of scoring 300-350, push that out to 400 and put pressure on the opposition."
The monsoon conditions in Sri Lanka could put paid to the tourists' ambitions, however, following a tour that has already been severely hampered by incessant rain.
All of the preceding six limited overs matches were affected by the weather, with three called off, but Taylor believes the damp conditions could spice up the wickets and play into the hands of his predominantly seam attack.
New Zealand are without main spin option Daniel Vettori, after he succumbed to an Achilles problem, meaning they will turn to understudy Jeetan Patel and their medium pacemen.
"The new ball will be crucial - putting the ball in the right area and asking questions," Taylor said.
"England were just out here recently and their seamers had a lot of success. It's not all about spin in this country."
Sri Lanka are nonetheless likely to test the tourists with spin after naming three slow bowlers in their squad.
The Galle wicket traditionally suits spin and the hosts will chose from Rangana Herath, Suraj Randiv and 19-year-old Tharindu Kaushal, who is yet even to play a first-class game.
Sri Lanka have won just one of their past five home Test series since New Zealand last toured in 2009 and skipper Mahela Jayawardene is looking forward to trying to turn that recent record around.
"We haven't played Test cricket for some time now and we'll try to be as consistent as possible," he said. "We still need to improve but we're working hard."