Wellington: New Zealand`s eight-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the first test of their two-match series has given them an opportunity to start next year as they did this, with a series triumph over a higher-ranked opponent.
Brendon McCullum`s side are seventh in the International Cricket Council`s (ICC) rankings, two places below Sri Lanka, though are playing at a standard that belies that position.
They have played nine tests in 2014 and won five of them, a national record for test victories in a year, lost two and drawn two. They are also unbeaten in six successive series at home and away since they were hammered 2-0 in England in May, 2013.
While McCullum has garnered the headlines with two double centuries, New Zealand`s first test triple century and a 134-ball innings of 195 at Hagley Oval that changed the complexion of the game, the team has become settled and balanced.
Bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult have blossomed into one of the best new ball combinations in the world with both now ranked inside the top-10, while batsman Kane Williamson has come of age in the past 12 months.
Williamson has scored 929 runs in 2014 with four centuries and coupled with Ross Taylor`s continued maturation and development, the heart of the batting lineup has no concerns going forward.
Finding a settled opening partnership continues to be an issue, though opener Hamish Rutherford will play the second test in Wellington this week.
New Zealand`s only change has been to bring Corey Anderson back into the match-day 13 for Dean Brownlie.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said he had seen enough in the team`s seconds innings batting, when Dimuth Karunaratne scored a maiden test century, and in their bowling to have hope at the Basin Reserve.
"We showed a lot of fight and a lot of character in the second innings," Mathews said.
"I thought the bowlers bowled pretty well. We got the lines and lengths right. That`s a positive we can take to Wellington.
Mathews said he hoped left-arm spinner Rangana Herath would be available for the second test, though he doubted there would be many changes to his side.
"We will give it some thought over the next few days," he added. "We have the batters and have the bowlers.
"There won`t be too many changes. It was just one game that we lost. We have been playing pretty good cricket."