By Terry Maddaford
The Black Sticks men stormed back into the international arena with an encouraging 3-0 win over Malaysia in Napier yesterday.
Ahead 2-0 at halftime, the New Zealanders were rarely under pressure in winning the opening match of the five-test series.
After the match, defender Dean Couzins said it was a good day for the side and a good start to the series after a break.
"They played pretty much as we expected," said Couzins, who shared the fullback duties with Blair Hopping. "They played a lot of ball through their right and left halves down the side lines and, as usual, they counter-attacked well."
The Black Sticks forced two penalty corners to one but without either threatening to score. Dominating from the outset, the home side went ahead in the 25th minute. Captain Phil Burrows dribbled deep into Malaysian territory before finding Simon Child, who provided the finishing touch.
From a similar move just before the break, local player Nick Wilson set up Wellington's Joel Baker.
The only goal in the second spell was scored by Child after good lead-up play from Ben Collier - one of five players used off the bench by coach Shane McLeod.
With only 16 players to be named for each match, McLeod, with a squad of 20, has to rest four players. Injured striker Dave Kosoof was joined on the sideline yesterday by back-up goalkeeper Stephen Graham, Richard Petherick and Casey Henwood.
The second test is in Palmerston North tomorrow night.