Two returnees to international cricket have busted the Black Caps out of their Twenty20 slump.
After more than a year away from the international arena, Doug Bracewell and Scott Kuggeleijn first saved the batsmen's blushes, then produced with the ball and in the field as the Black Caps claimed a 35-run victory over Sri Lanka in a one-off Twenty20.
Having lost their last six matches in the shortest format, and 10 of their last 11, it was a timely win for the Black Caps, and wrapped up a third series victory over Sri Lanka to end an excellent tour.
While the clash at Eden Park was hardly a priority, as shown by the Black Caps leaving their captain, coach and best seamer at home, there was still plenty to glean from the performances of their returning standouts.
The Black Caps indicated their faith in Bracewell and Kuggeleijn's all-round abilities by naming a side with just five specialist batsmen, but they wouldn't have expected to be calling upon their batting talents so early.
Sri Lanka ripped through the New Zealand top order, with Colin Munro, Martin Guptill and Tim Seifert all succumbing to top edges. The trio were attempting to play into the legside, but perhaps surprised by the pace and bounce in the wicket, all meekly skied deliveries which were well taken by an improved Sri Lankan fielding effort.
Add in Henry Nicholls lasting only six balls, and it was 27-4, tasking Ross Taylor and Mitchell Santner with a rebuilding effort - usually not an optimal idea in the 20-over format. Nine runs from 22 balls followed, and when Santner departed at 55-5 after 10 overs, the Black Caps' prospects of victory looked slim.
However, Taylor made 33 from 35 to at least steady proceedings, before combining with Bracewell, who produced some lusty blows in his return to international cricket. 23 came off a Thisara Perera over as part of an immensely valuable 44 off 26 balls, before Kuggeleijn then took over, bashing 35 off just 15 to see the Black Caps through to 179-7.
It was perhaps below-par, but considering how it began, it was an extremely handy total, and regular wickets fell in Sri Lanka's chase. While the visitors were tracking at 10 runs an over, Kuggeleijn and Bracewell took the vital wickets of Kusal Perera and Niroshan Dickwella respectively, and Lockie Ferguson had earlier removed Sadeera Samarawickrama for a first-ball duck.
That brought Thisara Perera to the crease, and once again he posed the biggest danger to the Black Caps. The powerful all-rounder looked imperious in carving his way to 43 from 24 balls as Sri Lanka stayed ahead of the required run rate, but a Ferguson slower ball drew him into picking out Bracewell at long-off, who took the catch.
Four balls later, Ferguson yorked Dhananjaya de Silva, and unlike the Black Caps, Sri Lanka had a long tail in wait.
From 118-4, Sri Lanka tumbled to 144 all out, Ish Sodhi wrapping up the tail with three wickets as New Zealand claimed a third straight series win.