Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
McCullum’s blitz powered New Zealand to a 1-0 lead in the series
New Zealand all-rounder Nathan McCullum stole the spotlight in the second ODI in Hambantota as he smashed a massive six off the last ball of the match to hand the Black Caps an incredible four-wicket win over Sri Lanka.
McCullum was well supported by opening batsman Tom Latham and wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi, both of whom blasted spectacular half-centuries.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews won the toss and elected to bat first since the pitch looked to be a batsman’s dream.
However, Sri Lanka got off to a poor start as opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne was caught by James Neesham at square leg off the bowling of New Zealand stand-in skipper Kyle Mills for only four runs.
Karunaratne’s opening partner, Tillakaratne Dilshan and wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara made up for the early wicket with an outstanding unbeaten 126-run partnership, during which both Dilshan and Sangakkara brought up their half-centuries.
Just as both batsmen seemed to be kicking it into the next gear, the heavens parted midway through the 20th over and a long wait ensued.
After a lengthy delay, it was revealed that Sri Lanka only had three more overs to bat.
Dilshan and Sangakkara smashed the New Zealand bowlers all over the ground as they guided Sri Lanka to a brilliant total of 138 at the end of their 23 overs.
Dilshan finished unbeaten on 55 off 72 balls, which included nine boundaries, while Sangakkara remained undefeated on 71 off just 59 deliveries, which also included nine boundaries.
Mills was the only New Zealand bowler to pick up a wicket.
Due to the rain delay and reduction in overs, New Zealand were set a target of 198 to win off 23 overs.
The Black Caps started in horrendous fashion as opening batsman Anton Devcich was caught behind off the bowling of Nuwan Kulasekara for just one run.
Things went from bad to worse for New Zealand as Kulasekara struck the very next ball when Rob Nicol charged down the pitch and ended up getting the faintest of nicks, which was gobbled up by Sangakkara behind the stumps.
Grant Elliott fared no better as he only managed to amass seven runs before completely missing a full-blooded cover drive, which resulted in him being stumped by Sangakkara off the bowling of Sachithra Senanayake.
Just a short while later, Colin Munro was on his way back to the pavilion for 15 after attempting a massive hoick off the bowling of Senanayake, which fell straight into the hands of Lahiru Thirimanne at deep midwicket.
With New Zealand struggling at 68/4, Ronchi and Latham came to the rescue with a fabulous 93-run partnership, during which Latham brought up his half-century, before Ronchi hit a delivery from Kulasekara straight into the hands of Dilshan at long-off, which left him one agonising run short of his own half-century.
Ronchi’s knock of 49 came off only 26 deliveries and included seven boundaries and a six.
Kulasekara struck again just three balls later as Latham sliced the ball right to Senananyake at point to be dismissed for 86 off 68 balls, which included 12 boundaries and a six.
Kulasekara’s double strike looked to have put New Zealand out of contention, but what Sri Lanka didn’t count on was the blitz that McCullum was about to unleash.
Heading into the last over, New Zealand needed 21 runs to win and this was where McCullum transformed into his younger brother, Brendon, as he hammered a boundary and three sixes, including one off the very last ball of the match, to lead the Black Caps to an unbelievable victory over Sri Lanka.
McCullum demolished the Sri Lankan bowling attack, smashing 32 runs off just nine balls, which included three boundaries and three sixes.
Kulasekara was the most successful Sri Lankan bowler with four wickets, while Senanayake picked up two.
Mathews was still shell-shocked at the fact that New Zealand had managed to win the match off the very last ball.
“Yeah actually the batters did everything right,” he said. “We did well to get the score we did, but then we got complacent after that. Most times batting second it would work for us. But 200 runs to get in 23 overs a night game, our bowling should have done the job, but we got complacent and the bowlers were making errors after the 10th over.
“I went for the best bowler (Rangana Herath) for the final over and would have chosen that anyways. The seniors came to the party once again, especially after losing first wicket in the first over. Unfortunately the bowlers could not pull through for us today. Pretty happy with the way I am going and pretty happy with the way I batted in the last game.”
Mills was ecstatic to have secured a come-from-behind win and taken a 1-0 lead in the ODI series.
“Yeah it’s a pretty happy change room up there,” he said. “Latham set it up for us and a number of guys did their job with the bat. Nice to finish it off the way we did. We have always had belief and backed our skills to do the job, but at the end of the day we have to come on the field and play winning cricket.
“Yeah I think we are leaking a few too many four balls and we are bowling slightly better than we did in the first game. We bowl well initially but then we let go off the pressure with a bad ball. We have to fix that up ahead of Dambulla. It’s remarkable how much the game has changed over the last 3-4 years.
“Saw the games in India and who would have thought that 320-340 was a par score. It’s up to the bowlers to go back to the drawing board and make new plans. There are opportunities for guys to step up, but as I said before, we are here to play winning cricket.
“The guys try really hard to put a result on the board. I am really enjoying the captaincy.The Game is a lot faster than I expected. Thought I could just stand at third man or fine leg (chuckles). It was a good result tonight.”
Latham edged out McCullum to pick up the Man of the Match award.
“It is obviously very pleasing to get the win and go to Dambulla 1-0 up,” he said. “Losing [3-0] to Bangladesh was tough. We came here with a young group. Nice to win the second one so really happy about that. The new rules certainly help when it comes to chasing those big scores. Big guys can clear the ropes when they want.”