Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: McCullum has the inside word on Sri Lanka

Pop quiz time: who was the man of the match in New Zealand's only win against Sri Lanka in a World Cup or World T20 match in the last 20 years? The answer is Nathan McCullum.

The 32-year-old was omnipresent that day at the last World T20 at Providence in Guyana. He took three catches, opened the bowling to take one wicket for 17 runs off three overs and batted New Zealand home with a ball to spare, making 16 off six deliveries.

Before that, New Zealand's last win over Sri Lanka at a full international tournament was at the 1992 World Cup. They meet again tomorrow night in Pallekele. Given Sri Lanka are hosts, with one of the most potent sides at the World T20, more McCullum magic might be required. McCullum the elder has the know-how. He is the third most capped New Zealand player with 36 matches, behind just brother Brendon (50) and captain Ross Taylor (43).

McCullum has racked up other reconnaissance which could help New Zealand progress further into the draw. He was one of just three in the current squad who joined a T20 team - the Ruhuna Royals - in the inaugural Sri Lankan Premier League last month. The others were Kyle Mills and Jacob Oram, whose side, Uva Next, were champions.

McCullum trained with the side, which included Sri Lankan pace bowler Lasith Malinga, but did not play in the tournament. Instead he rushed home to be with his wife for the sudden birth of their child.

McCullum also knows about bowling to batting greats Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. He has played five ODIs and five T20Is against Sri Lanka, dismissing each of them twice (once in ODIs and once in T20Is).

Such intelligence could be vital. Jayawardene is one of seven players to have scored a T20 international century and Sangakkara is the world cricketer of the year.

"I've had a bit of success against them," McCullum says, speaking after practice at Asgiriya Stadium, the former venue in Kandy where New Zealand won a test in 1984 and drew one in 2003.

"That's the thing about these competitions around the world. You are able to compete with the best and challenge yourself whether it's in the nets or playing.

"It's been a fantastic opportunity to gain experience against world class players."

Naturally McCullum expects spin to play a key role as the tournament progresses and pitches wear at the Pallekele venue.

"They'll take a bit more turn and I think that'll suit us with plenty of options in that regard. Fielding will be important, too. It is underrated in T20; you can swing a game saving 15-20 runs and take a couple more chances than the opposition."

Andrew Alderson flew to the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka courtesy of Emirates Airline (www.emirates.com/nz).

- Herald on Sunday

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