A win over Zimbabwe tomorrow would hand New Zealand a rare ODI series victory, but coach John Wright thinks it's also an early step toward beating South Africa next month.
After trouncing the tourists by 90 runs in Dunedin on Friday, a repeat dose at Cobham Oval in Whangarei would see the Black Claps claim the three-match series with a game to spare. And Wright believes vanquishing the visitors would see his side in good stead to take on the Proteas in late March.
By Wright's reckoning, any win in international cricket - no matter the opposition - is important for his team as it creates a habit of winning. Therefore, beating the unranked Zimbabwe can only bode well when the more illustrious South Africa, the second best side in the world, come calling.
2004 was the last time New Zealand beat South Africa in a one-day series so the Black Caps need any boost they can get ahead of their next shot, according to Wright.
"A win's a win and we've got South Africa coming," he said. "[Zimbabwe] managed to beat us in Bulawayo in the last one-dayer (of New Zealand's tour last year) so we value our wins very highly.
"Then, if we can get some form going, we've got to try and knock off South Africa."
To find some form and to avoid dropping another game to the African minnows, the Black Caps will need an improved batting effort tomorrow, Wright said. While their total of 248 in the first game was adequate, and proved more than enough to taste victory, the coach wants to see his charges bat deeper into the innings.
New Zealand were bowled out in the 49th over in Dunedin after finding their bowlers at the crease with seven overs to bat, something Wright hopes won't be repeated.
"I thought our batting was a bit sloppy in Dunedin. You can lose a couple of wickets early but we got to about the 46th over and we were eight down, which doesn't allow you to capitalise on those last 20-odd balls.
"We want to get to about 46 overs with perhaps four wickets in hand then go from there. We had a lot of starts but we want players to go on."
Wright knows, while Zimbabwe let the Black Caps off the hook with another insipid batting display of their own on Friday, that mistake will be punished when facing a superior side.
"We have targets and goals within games we want to achieve. We need to bat a lot deeper than we did in the first match. We know against better opposition that would have hurt us."
The number of new faces in the New Zealand squad is another reason a win over Zimbabwe is imperative. After Andrew Ellis, Rob Nicol and Dean Brownlie all showed flashes of potential in the first game, leg-spinner Tarun Nethula will be the next to make his ODI debut.
"We've got guys who haven't come out of the woodwork but performed well in our one day domestic competitions, and they've been rewarded with selection." Wright said. "It's interesting, we've only been together as a group for a very short period of time. Those things take a little bit of bedding down but a victory tomorrow will help that."
Wright confirmed New Zealand's top six would be the same as the opening match, with Ellis coming in at seven in place of Nathan McCullum. He makes way in the 12 for Nethula while Michael Bates is the other man to miss out.