What seemed highly unlikely a few days ago is a distinct possibility now and New Zealand cricket captain Brendon McCullum says they are determined to end their tour of South Africa on a high note and secure an unprecedented 3-0 one-day whitewash.
The Black Caps created history when they beat the Proteas in the second one-day international yesterday to record their first series win in any format in the Republic. It was a remarkable turnaround from a side thrashed by innings defeats in the two tests but also an illustration that New Zealand can succeed when they play in coloured clothing.
It will still take a lot more to restore the faith of some jilted fans but it is a start. And a series sweep would see them take another step on the road back to redemption.
"[We are] very determined [to win 3-0],'' McCullum said this morning. "We let last night sink in, which is important. You have to celebrate your wins along the way and never let things sit idle.
"Today we started to turn our attention towards the third game, which is a really good sign from a leadership point of view. To see guys are still very determined to give everything we can to overcome I imagine a reasonably hurt South African team [is pleasing]. Hopefully we will be able to perform in the last game and, if we walk away with a 3-0 victory, that would be something we would all remember for the rest of our lives.''
There have been false dawns before, like when New Zealand toppled Australia in Hobart in 2011 and comprehensively outplayed Sri Lanka in the second test in Colombo last year.
McCullum is only too aware those geneses haven't materialised. It's why he realises it will take a few more successes for fans to embrace the team fully.
"We certainly don't think that by winning this series all of a sudden everyone in the country expects us to be a world-dominating team on a consistent basis,'' he said. "What it does show is we are trending in the right direction.
"We can't underestimate how big a victory this is and, yes, it as a starting point but it's still important to realise that we looked the giants in the eye and were able to come away with success. That's a really good test of character and starting point to work from.
"We have had starting points before, like the win over Australia a while ago, but we haven't really kicked on from those. That's what the next challenge will be, to really ensure we use this opportunity we have now to develop and become more consistent and that's when we are going to get that real love across the board from the New Zealand public.''
New Zealand's chances of winning Saturday morning's (NZT) final game improved with news South African batsman Hashim Amla won't be risked in the match to help him overcome a thigh strain in time for the upcoming three-test series against Pakistan starting on February 1. Left-arm spinner Robin Peterson will also miss the game because of split webbing on his right hand but fast bowler Dale Steyn has been recalled to the squad and Dean Elgar was added as batting cover for Amla.
There's little doubt South Africa will be hurting and New Zealand will be confident. That hasn't happened too often in international cricket recently which makes the outcome of Saturday's game unpredictable.
- APNZBy Michael Brown Email Michael