14 Aug 2019

World Cup gone, now onto the Test Championship

9:31 am on 14 August 2019

A month to the day since the gut-wrenching result of the Cricket World Cup final, the Black Caps are set to start the first of two Test matches in Sri Lanka.

Nine of the 15-man Test squad were part of New Zealand's World Cup contingent, who had to settle for simply being part of one of cricket's greatest ever games after hosts England hoisted the trophy on a controversial boundary countback.

So how will that match affect the side ahead of their first match of the newly minted Test Championship?

Kane Williamson after the final.

Black Caps captain Kane Williamson following the Cricket World Cup final. Photo: Photosport

Last month's Cricket World Cup final is tough enough to re-live as a Black Caps fan.

So imagine what it's like as one of the New Zealand players directly involved.

Moving on from the agony has been different for each player and that's something Black Caps management have been very aware of.

But it's what New Zealand Cricket High Performance boss Bryan Stronach called the "ambulance at the bottom of the cliff stuff."

He said the key to limiting the impact of such disappointment was making sure players lived balanced lives.

"If you imagine you've only got cricket going on in your life and something like the World Cup happens, it's a pretty dramatic event which has a big impact.

"Whereas if cricket is only one thing that's going on in your life and there's other things that are important then yes, it's still an impact, but it's not all consuming."

To ensure that, measures were taken before the tournament and even further back than that build-up.

While he admitted it was hard to quantify, Stronach believed those steps have helped the players cope in an overwhelmingly positive fashion.

"That's not saying they weren't disappointed and it's not saying they're not still disappointed and reliving that event, they are.

NZ Cricket head of high performance Bryan Stronach, left, talks to Black Caps selector Gavin Larsen.

NZ Cricket head of high performance Bryan Stronach, left, talks to Black Caps selector Gavin Larsen. Photo: Photosport

"But we've just been so impressed with how they've have dealt with it and they are starting to become more and more proud around what they achieved and how they achieved it.

"There's big motivations around this team around not just winning games a cricket, it's how they act when they win games of cricket."

It's a sentiment echoed by seamer Tim Southee.

One of the nine Test squad members who went to the World Cup, Southee said they had mostly been looking on the bright side of the experience.

"There is still conversations had about what happened in England and about what we were able to achieve as a group and what we did over that eight weeks.

"While there's plenty of frustration and a number of other emotions that come to mind, if you dig a bit deeper, the way that we were able to represent New Zealand [has made] people pretty proud of the way we played and carried ourselves as well."

Southee took 12 wickets in two matches during New Zealand's last Test tour to Sri Lanka in 2012.

The series also saw senior batsman Ross Taylor lead the team to a memorable second Test victory.

Memories of the first test at Galle, though, aren't so fond.

The visitors were thumped by 10 wickets, and prior to the match Taylor was told by then coach Mike Hesson he was to be sacked as captain and replaced by Brendon McCullum.

The Black Caps are staying at the same Galle hotel this week but Taylor was able to see the humour in a quirky coincidence involving now skipper Kane Williamson and the room where that infamous conversation took place.

"Kane's in the same room, so I had a bit of a laugh about that. He's got a unique bed.

"But that's seven years ago. A lot's happened since then and I think we've all moved on."

Ross Taylor - "Kane's in the same room (as I was in 2012) so I had a bit of a laugh about that."

Ross Taylor - "Kane's in the same room (as I was in 2012) so I had a bit of a laugh about that." Photo: Photosport

That's hard to deny, given what the team has achieved since.

New Zealand has won five their past five Test series to rise to number two in the rankings.

One of a four-strong group of spinners in the Test squad that offered a big hint to expected conditions in Sri Lanka, Todd Astle said there was a key element to that success.

"We might not have the same resource or backing [as other teams] a lot of the time but we make the most of what we've got.

"That's probably our strength is our collective and how guys put their hands up at different times.

"It just means that we're gaining this momentum and actually doing really well on the Test scene but also in the other formats as well.

Continuing that run in Sri Lanka - where heat, humidity and those spin-friendly pitches provide a significant challenge - would be no mean feat.

Doing that after while still dealing with their World Cup disappointment would make it an even bigger achievement.

Stronach said using that World Cup experience would be crucial as they tried to bounce back with a winning start to their Test Championship campaign.

"If you try and pretend like you're going to forget something like that, that's exactly what that is. You're pretending and ultimately you will be thinking about it and dealing with it.

"It's a huge motivation for them going forward."

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