David Leggat on sport
David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: It's time the destructive Brendon McCullum opened the batting in Twenty20


Six years ago New Zealand and the West Indies tied a T20 international at Eden Park, then found the winner with a bowl off.

It consisted of five players on each side bowling two deliveries at an unguarded set of stumps.

It proved a hoot, mainly because it showed how utterly useless bowlers were at hitting stumps not protected by a batsman. A pretty basic skill, you'd have thought.

Eventually Shane Bond hit them twice, Scott Styris once and the Windies were so hopeless none of them managed a single strike.

Most weren't even close, although you'd have picked that had it been held a generation earlier the celebrated West Indian quicks would still have been hurling down bouncers.

Now T20 has the super over, which produced a thrilling denouement in Pallekele early yesterday, Sri Lanka's 13 runs off the outstanding Tim Southee's over, beating New Zealand's eight off the king of cricket's death detail, Lasith Malinga.

Sport's love affair with the ultimate result-finder is ever-expanding. The methods vary but it seems sport cannot be without one.

Soccer's penalty shootout is the granddaddy of the current crop.

Hockey's shootout - as when New Zealand's women were beaten by the Netherlands in their Olympic semifinal last month - appeals as one of the harder for the attacker to accomplish. Eight seconds from the 23m line to run, dribble, deceive the goalkeeper and score seems to offer at least even money on the keeper stopping the strike and replicates a match situation.

Golf can't even settle on which method of eliminator it likes. All four majors have different rules, ranging from the Masters' sudden death to the US Open's snorefest of a full 18 holes the following day.

League has its golden point, which is far from universally popular. Netball has seven minutes each way extra time, then play on until one team has a two-goal margin, as happened when New Zealand beat Australia to win the Commonwealth Games title in Delhi two years ago.

Basketball keeps going in five-minute overtime increments until there's a winner.

Major League baseball has the ultimate decider. They play until one team has more runs than the other. It could go all night, all week, or forever.

There was a time when sport could appreciate a draw. The Americans never have. Gotta have a winner.

New Zealand should have lost earlier than they did yesterday, after Mahela Jayawardene and Tillekaratne Dilshan went on their spectacular rampage - then should have won in the closing stages, thus negating the need for a super over, after pulling it back and discovering the tournament hosts possessed jangly nerves.

Southee is undisputed as New Zealand's best bowler for the nervy closing overs; James Franklin did well, Dan Vettori was, well, Dan Vettori.

But it's time New Zealand sorted out their batting order, starting at the top.

Rob Nicol top scored with 58 off 40 balls. He finished with a clatter, but when Brendon McCullum arrived, halfway through the seventh over, Nicol was on 16, at run-a-ball rate.

McCullum must open. His 123 against Bangladesh off just 58 balls last week - granted, a different standard of bowling - but the Otago man is among the most destructive top order operators in the short game. Would you put Chris Gayle or David Warner at No3?

No. This is barmy.

McCullum has scored more T20 runs than any other player, and his average in that form of the game, 37.74, is superior to his ODI and test averages.

Nicol can certainly play, so why not try him at No3 - although captain Ross Taylor should be there anyway in that form - or alternatively have him on hand for the closing handful of overs where he could do a job.

Fail to beat England tonight and more than likely it's a debate to put on hold until the next international assignment.

- NZ Herald

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