Cricket: 'Seriously nervous' win - McCullum

By Andrew Alderson in Cardiff

Batting composure 1 Batting contagion 0... but it was a close run thing for a New Zealand order who conquered the Sri Lankan bowlers to win their opening Champions Trophy match by one wicket.

Spectators were treated to attrition as bowlers and fielders ground batsmen down. A legside delivery from Tillakaratne Dilshan enabled Mitchell McClenaghan to scamper two wides to break the deadlock.

Faces stonier than those on Mt Rushmore filled the New Zealand team balcony; McClenaghan's dash saw crow's feet return around their eyes.

The New Zealand batsmen know they haven't eradicated their tendency to contract the yips under pressure but, equally, some middle order application returned in difficult circumstances after the mini-collapse during the final ODI match against England.

New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum's 18 runs from 49 balls in 86 minutes ranks among his more valuable ODI innings.

"Any time you win and make some contribution it's nice but it's certainly not one of my most fluent innings. You'd expect to chase 139 any day and then you see the ball turning, stopping, keeping low and reverse swinging and you know they've got [Lasith] Malinga and [Rangana] Herath who are excellent bowlers on surfaces like that.We got out of jail."

He admitted to myriad anxious moments.

"Once you get out, that's when you start getting twitchy. When you're out there and can influence the situation, the nerves aren't too bad. When [brother] Nathan got out [at 122 for eight] things got a bit nervy and once that run out [of Kyle Mills at 134 for nine] happened I was seriously nervous. But, when we got to the last couple of runs it wasn't too bad because I knew Tim [Southee] had faced a lot of balls from Malinga. Still, I wouldn't say I was calm."

Nathan McCullum's 32, two for 23 and numerous saves in the field earned him man-of-the-match in his 50th ODI appearance. He and his brother contributed a seventh-wicket partnership of 35, topped only by the equivalent stand of 36 in the Sri Lankan innings.
He says he tried to be as confident as he could.

"I wanted to make sure it wasn't all up to Brendon. Unfortunately we couldn't finish it off. We were quite composed [in our mid-wicket conversations] really. It was a matter of trying to chip away. We knew if we batted 10-15 overs we could kill the game off but we didn't bat the extra five we needed to."

Bizarrely, the pitch which produced 636 runs between India and South Africa could only offer 277 runs between Sri Lanka and New Zealand. It had eroded but didn't appear to be a minefield, at least from a distance.
Brendon McCullum thought otherwise.

"I don't think there are issues in our batting. Today's wicket was incredibly difficult to bat on. That's why we did such a good job with the ball, we made an early assessment that 170-180 was going to be a struggle to chase so we kept attacking. That was probably the winning of the game."

He says Malinga made batting tough with at least half a dozen yorkers which were lbw contenders at the end. Malinga finished with three of Sri Lanka's five lbws.

"You prepare for death bowling, slower balls and slower ball bouncers, but Lasith is a different proposition," Brendon McCullum said. "He bowled brilliantly [finishing with four for 34] and was probably unlucky not to come out on the right side. It's hard to prepare for that sort of bowling; once he executes he's the best in the world."

Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews took issue with one Malinga thunderbolt in the 34th over at 127 for eight which appeared to pin Tim Southee's boot adjacent to the stumps. Sri Lanka had already used their review.

"Obviously that decision was crucial and it was pretty obvious he was out but it [luck rather than the ball] swings both ways. It changed the whole finale. It would have been all over."

Daniel Vettori survived his first ODI since March 2011 but appeared to hobble in the outfield at times. Captain McCullum says there is a thought he could miss playing Australia on Wednesday if it meant he'd be fit to play England in Cardiff next weekend.

"His wicket of [Mahela] Jayawardene was huge for us and his other overs asked a lot of questions. We want to keep assessing him, knowing the wicket could be similar to what we found today. That's where the assessment at Edgbaston will be important. If it doesn't have the same grip and stop we've seen here, then we'll weigh up the risk of playing him, knowing others could fill the void."

- Herald on Sunday

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