International cricket returns to the Bay Oval with the first of New Zealand A's three match 50-over series against India A at the ground over the next five days.
Bay of Plenty's Corey Anderson, who will captain the New Zealand side in the three day-nighters, believes they are shaping up not only as hard-fought competitive encounters, but crucial opportunities for Blackcaps hopefuls to show they're good to go if required in the top side which has a busy home summer ahead.
Heading that list is Anderson himself. He's had a frustrating time in the last 18 months with back problems and then a bruised heel just as he was settling back into the Blackcaps setup last month in the Pakistan series in the United Arab Emirates, but now rates himself ready to make an impact again.
“Yeah I am. I've been battling a bit of an illness lately, I've had shingles for the last month so that hasn't been ideal with the add-on of the bruised heel as well.
“But yeah everything's feeling good.
“And obviously these are three massive games. Anytime you play for New Zealand A against a strong Indian A side it's always going to be good fun and very competitive, so I know the guys in the camp are looking forward to starting the series.”
Matches two and three in the triple-header follow on Sunday and Tuesday, and supporters who come along for the matches, which begin at 2pm each day and are free to enter, will see two quality teams going hard for victory, says Corey.
“These situations are as close to international cricket as you can get without playing for New Zealand. They've got a lot of guys who've played for India, and likewise with us we've got a lot of guys who've played for New Zealand. So we've both got really strong sides out on paper and hopefully we can produce some good performances out on the park.”
The powerful all-rounder will be taking time off from the bowling crease for the series as he gradually returns to normal workloads, but is looking forward to taking on more responsibility higher up the batting order than his customary six or seven position.
“I'm looking at batting number four. Bowling has taken a bit of a halt just with what's happened over the last month with the illness and the injury so I'm just slowly progressing that.
“But it's a good chance to try and get some time in the middle and bat a bit higher, have a little bit more responsibility, and try and knock out some runs.
“If that happens then great, if not then it's just one of those things. There's still a lot of cricket to be played.”
His end game, however, as next year's World Cup in England approaches, is to reclaim an all-rounder's role in the Blackcaps, he says.
“I think for the balance of the New Zealand side, and looking ahead to that world cup, that's ultimately the position that needs to be filled, and I think I have the tools to fill that position I guess as well.
“That bowling part of my game has to improve to the point where I can bowl enough overs and make sure I can still do a really good job for New Zealand.
“So it's going to be a big handful of months leading into that.”
The Burger King Super Smash is also part of the coming schedule, with the Knights playing two of their five home matches at the Bay Oval, and that's a prospect he's looking forward to if he's involved.
“I guess there's probably mixed emotions with that to be honest – if I'm playing for Northern Districts it means I might have missed out with the Blackcaps, but at the same time it's fantastic to be playing with them and during that Christmas and New Year period everyone gets down to the cricket and there's always good atmosphere.
“So ideally I can be involved in both at some capacity, but we'll have to just wait and see.”
Fellow Northern Districts stars all-rounder Daryl Mitchell and wicketkeeper Tim Seifert have been named in the squad for the series, which includes Jimmy Neesham, Lockie Ferguson, Doug Bracewell, and Hamish Rutherford among nine current or former Blackcaps.
The three matches, today, Sunday and Tuesday, all begin at 2pm, and admission is free. All three are being televised live on Sky Sport.
New Zealand A one-day squad v India A:
Corey Anderson (c), Hamish Bennett, Doug Bracewell, Lockie Ferguson, Cole McConchie, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Seth Rance, Rachin Ravindra, Hamish Rutherford, Tim Seifert, George Worker, Will Young