Cricket: Blackcaps given chance to finish disappointing World Test Championship on a high against Sri Lanka

By every metric, the Blackcaps' defence of the inaugural World Test Championship has been poor, to say the least.

In June 2021, the Blackcaps stunned heavyweights India in Southampton, and New Zealand became the first nation to win the World Test Championship - introduced in 2019 as a means of contextualising test cricket against a global trend of white ball prevalence.

Since then though, results have not gone the Blackcaps' way.

The Blackcaps celebrate victory in the World Test Championship (2021).
The Blackcaps celebrate victory in the World Test Championship (2021). Photo credit: Getty Images

As World Test Champions, the Blackcaps have been beaten by England and India, and drawn against Bangladesh, South Africa and Pakistan.

Winless in five series, New Zealand have no chance of reaching this year's World Test Championship final - to be played at London's The Oval in June.

But from Thursday, the Blackcaps have the chance to, at the very least, get one win in the column, with two tests against Sri Lanka. 

The nature of the series, starting just under two weeks on from the dramatic one-run win over England at the Basin Reserve, has given New Zealand little time to dwell on one of their all-time great victories.

For seamer Matt Henry - likely to feature when the test begins on Thursday - the continued growth of the team over the past two years should hold them in good stead for Sri Lanka.

"This group have been playing test cricket now, for the season," said Henry. "We're growing as a group as well, we're heading in the right direction.

The Blackcaps celebrate victory over England.
The Blackcaps celebrate victory over England. Photo credit: Photosport

"We're very pleased with how the last game turned out, but we're more impressed with how we played, and the nature we played the game [in].

"Hopefully we can go out there, we can show those characteristics again, and get into some good test cricket."

Visitors Sri Lanka, though, will be no easybeats. 

Also entering their final series of the World Test Championship cycle, a 2-0 series win would put Sri Lanka into the decider, where they'd meet Australia.

Any other result would see India through to the final, at Sri Lanka's expense.

The tourists can, and likely will, take solace from their efforts on Kiwi soil at the end of 2018, where an unbroken 274-run partnership between Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis denied the Blackcaps victory at the Basin Reserve.

And for bowling coach Shane Jurgensen, writing off Sri Lanka would be a huge risk - even in favourable conditions for New Zealand.

"They'll definitely be hungry for success," said Jurgensen. "If we look back to Wellington four years ago, they played extremely well.

"For us, we need to make sure we're on our A-game and they'll be a challenge for us.

"But for us, in our conditions, we like to think we'll play to our strengths and we just focus on what we need to focus on.

"That's all we can do, control our game."

The Blackcaps face Sri Lanka in two tests, beginning at Hagley Oval on Friday and Wellington's Basin Reserve on March 17.