A six by Nathan McCullum off the penultimate delivery gave New Zealand a thrilling two-wicket win over Sri Lanka in their Twenty20 world championship cricket opener in Guyana today.

McCullum clouted Sri Lankan speedster Lasith Malinga over long-off with New Zealand requiring three runs off the last two balls, sparking jubilant scenes in the dugout at Providence Stadium in Georgetown.

New Zealand restricted Sri Lanka to 135 for six off their 20 overs and are almost certain to qualify for the Super Eight phase with today's victory, with Zimbabwe their second group B opponents on Wednesday (NZT).

McCullum ended 16 not out off six deliveries, having also hit Malinga for four in the final over, and was named man of the match after an impressive all-round performance. The offspinner earlier took one for 17 off three overs with the new ball and snared three sharp catches.

Jesse Ryder topscored with 42 and allrounder Jacob Oram got New Zealand close with consecutive sixes off spinner Ajantha Mendis to leave them needing 20 off the last two overs.

Oram departed for 15 off six deliveries, Gareth Hopkins ran himself out chasing two then captain Daniel Vettori (17) sacrificed himself in the final over to keep McCullum on strike against the dangerous Malinga.

"Particularly the way we bowled, to restrict them to that score was really pleasing. Fortunately we'd played a couple of games here and got a feel for the ground and that held us in good stead today," Vettori said at the post-match interviews.

"We knew how difficult the chase would be with Sri Lanka's bowlers and we put ourselves under too much pressure with how we batted in the middle, but Nathan McCullum and Jacob Oram rescued us at the end.

"Jacob had the licence to go and play, he's played Mendis pretty well in the past and to chip that second six was probably the turning point for us.

"Nathan knows his game and against a bowler like Malinga who was inch-perfect the whole time, to be able to hit a four and a six was pretty amazing."

New Zealand's chase got off to an awful start when Brendon McCullum departed without scoring in the first over when he was caught at mid-wicket playing a pull shot at paceman Angelo Mathews.

But Ryder, making a long-awaited return to New Zealand colours after an abdominal injury layoff, got the chase going in his trademark style.

He clubbed 42 off 27 balls, including three fours and two sixes, before master spinner Muttiah Muralitharan struck.

Ryder lofted Muralitharan over mid-wicket for six but then tried to glide him through third man and was bowled by one that turned sharply.

Martin Guptill helped Ryder add 62 for the second wicket but he departed soon afterwards for 19 when he was yorked by Sanath Jayasuriya as the Sri Lankan spinners looked to take control.

With the run rate mounting, key men Ross Taylor (9) and Scott Styris (17) both hit out at the spinners and perished in the space of two overs as New Zealand teetered at 96 for five in the 17th as the asking rate climbed to 10 an over.

Opener Mahela Jayawardene guided the Sri Lankans to 135 for six as the New Zealand bowlers generally did a good job on the slow surface with short boundaries.

Jayawardene cracked 81 off 51 balls, including eight fours and two sixes, as he batted through until the 19th over before Tim Southee removed him.

Jayawardene and debutant Dinesh Chandimal (29 off 23) rescued the Sri Lankan innings with a 59-run stand for the third wicket.

Paceman Shane Bond suffered early on at the hands of Jayawardene but ended with two for 35 off four overs while Southee was economical in his four-over spell of one for 21.

- NZPA

Sri Lanka

M. Jayawardene c N McCullum b Southee 81
T. Dilshan b Oram 3
K. Sangakkara b Styris 4
L. Chandimal c Taylor b NL McCullum 29
C. Kapugedera c N McCullum b Bond 11
A. Mathews c N McCullum b Bond 3
S. Jayasuriya not out 0

Extras (lb3, w1) 4

Total (6 wickets, 20 overs) 135

Did not bat: L Malinga, M Muralitharan, A Mendis, U Welegedara

Fall of wickets: 1-35 (Dilshan), 2-44 (Sangakkara), 3-103 (Chandimal), 4-124 (Jayawardene), 5-135 (Kapugedera), 6-135 (Mathews)

Bowling: N McCullum 3-0-17-1 (1w); Bond 4-0-35-2; Southee 4-0-21-1; Oram 3-0-23-1; Vettori 4-0-23-0; Styris 2-0-13-1

New Zealand

B. McCullum c Malinga b Mathews 0
J. Ryder b Muralitharan 42
M. Guptill b Jayasuriya 19
R. Tayor c Mathews b Muralitharan 9
S. Styris b Mendis 17
D. Vettori run out (Malinga) 17
J. Oram b Welegedera 15
G. Hopkins run out (Dilshan/Sangakkara) 1
N. McCullum not out 16

Extras (b2, w1) 3

Total (8 wkts, 19.5 overs) 139

Did not bat: S Bond

Fall of wickets: 1-0 (B McCullum), 2-62 (Ryder), 3-66 (Guptill), 4-86 (Taylor), 5-96 (Styris), 6-116 (Oram), 7-117 (Hopkins), 8-133 (Vettori)

Bowling: Mathews 2-1-7-1; Welegedara 2-0-21-0 (1w); Mendis 4-0-34-1; Malinga 3.5-0-33-0; Muralitharan 4-0-25-2; Jayasuriya 4-0-17-1

Toss: Sri Lanka

Result: New Zealand won by two wickets


- AFP