Cricket: Injured McCullum hits top form at World Cup

By Andrew Alderson in Mumbai

Brendon McCullum's 101, three catches and a run out to help New Zealand beat Canada by 97 runs at the World Cup was an exercise in mental determination as much as the use of his cricketing talents.

McCullum is often wearing a brace on a tender right knee at present. He is still capable of playing but walked with a minor limp attending the post-match media conference as man-of-the-match.

It is concerning that he is the third senior player with an injury niggle. New Zealand is already without captain Daniel Vettori due to his knee ligament strain while Kyle Mills came off against Canada with a slight tweak to a quadricep muscle after bowling 2.4 overs and taking two wickets for two runs.

Wankhede Stadium debuted at the World Cup with a flat pitch. That enabled the New Zealand batsmen to swing in a clean arc fashioning 358 for six, a record total at the ground. It was the ground's first international of any sort since October 2007.

McCullum punished any width and uppercut well, taking advantage of a wide third man. Of his 60 runs in boundaries, just eight came through the leg-side. It was his third ODI century but his first at a World Cup.

The Black Caps failed to dismiss Canada who finished on 261 for nine. McCullum's catches included a diving one-glove effort to his right to dismiss Rizwan Cheema. He also produced a snappy 30-metre throw to run out Canadian veteran John Davison as he ambled back oblivious to a throw hurtling towards the non-striker's end.

McCullum discarded his wicket-keeping pads towards the end of the innings to free up his legs in the Mumbai heat.

He did not have to keep up to the stumps during the latter stages.

He offered a wry grin and a succinct reply as to how the knee was holding up: "It's fine."

Captain Ross Taylor says McCullum's performance was testament to his fortitude.

"It's nice to see him get some reward. To bat almost 37 overs then keep for another 50 is tough but he got some catches, too. To top that off with the run out meant he had a good day."

It was also a good day for the middle order. They had a chance to gel after the Black Caps were sent in by Canada. Kane Williamson in his first World Cup appearance made 34 from 27 balls, Scott Styris 35 from 20 and James Franklin 31 from eight which, with extras, included 31 runs off the last over. That is the third most runs off an over in one-day history. It started being bowled by Rizwan Cheema but had to be finished by Harvir Baidwan after Cheema delivered two beamers.

McCullum says in addition to his innings, those were other highlights.

"The way the tournament's panned out means some of those guys haven't had a great deal of time at the crease. They will bank a lot of confidence from the way they struck the ball and set up the last 10 overs. Hopefully when they're in that situation again, they can call upon that.

"We have some power in our order and we need to make sure we give those guys the best opportunity to play with a bit of freedom."

- Herald on Sunday

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