Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
McCullum hammered four sixes during his unbeaten knock of 60
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum smashed a magnificent half-century to help the Black Caps draw first blood against the West Indies in the first Twenty20 International in Auckland.
McCullum was well supported by his older brother, Nathan, who ripped through the West Indies’ batting line-up with four wickets.
McCullum won the toss and chose to bat first.
However, his decision to do so backfired early on as opening batsman Martin Guptill made a quickfire 25 before being caught by Johnson Charles at short cover off the bowling of Tino Best.
Jesse Ryder managed to make 22 before he was caught by Charles at long-on off the bowling of Nikita Miller.
Ross Taylor failed to have an impact with the bat as he only scored five runs before being caught by West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo at short cover off the bowling of Miller.
Colin Munro smashed 22 runs before being caught behind off the bowling of Best.
Best struck again just three balls later when Corey Anderson hit a delivery from him straight to debutant Kieran Powell at deep square leg.
However, from that point on it was all New Zealand as McCullum and wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi amassed an outstanding 85-run partnership, during which McCullum brought up his half-century, to lead the Black Caps to 189/5 at the end of their 20 overs.
McCullum finished on 60 off 45 balls, which included two boundaries and four sixes, while Ronchi remained undefeated on 48 off 25 deliveries, which included three boundaries and four maximums.
Best was the pick of the West Indian bowlers with three wickets, while Miller snapped up two.
Chasing a tough target of 190 to win, the West Indies got off to a poor start as opening batsman Lendl Simmons was caught behind off the bowling of Adam Milne for a duck.
Charles managed to make 16 runs before being caught behind off the bowling of James Neesham.
Things went from bad to worse for the West Indies as Powell, Andre Fletcher and Andre Russell were all dismissed in quick succession.
Bravo failed to have an impact with the bat as well as he could only muster up 10 runs before he was brilliantly caught by Ryder at long-off off the bowling of McCullum.
Debutant Chadwick Walton was dismissed the very next over as he was caught by Munro off the bowling of Neesham.
Neesham struck again just two balls later when Sunil Narine smashed a delivery from him straight to Milne at long-off.
Despite an unbeaten 31-run partnership between Samuel Badree and Miller, the West Indies still fell 81 runs short of their target.
McCullum was the most successful bowler with four wickets, while Neesham picked up three and Milne chipped in with one.
Bravo was disappointed with his team’s performance, and said: “We are aware of strengths of Guptill and Ryder. I thought we pulled them back towards the middle, but then Brendon and Ronchi played well at the end. Wasn’t much we could do then. Shows why they are some of the best players in the game in this format.
“Tino and the bowlers bowled their heart out, so not much we could do there. But we kept losing wickets so there will always be scoreboard pressure.
“I think the conditions are not the best for the slower bowlers. Narine is still world-class and is still a trump card for us. At the moment things are not going his way, but one good spell will bring him back to his best. We look forward to that (Wellington, 2nd T20). When our backs are to the wall, we are at the most dangerous.”
McCullum was ecstatic to have taken a 1-0 lead in the series, and said: “Happy with the performance. It was a pretty complete performance right from the get-go. They came back in the game with some pretty good bowling. The way Ronchi played it was a brilliant innings, and gave us the impetus we needed, especially when we were struggling to get bat on ball.
“We train hard all the time in all disciplines. We set high standards and we always strive to achieve them. We have fielded pretty well in the last 3-4 years, and we may have the odd game off, we are pretty consistent. We don’t have the depth of other teams, but it is good to see performances from the group. The catching was terrific.
“Milne was brilliant. He is good with the new ball and the speed gun definitely got a work over. He hasn’t got the rewards he deserves for in the other matches, but he definitely got some today.
“We look to wrap it up in Wellington. We missed an opportunity in the ODI series, so we definitely want to close this out. We have some big tournaments coming up over the next six months, so we need to produce and provide the performances.”
Ronchi was named Man of the Match for his sparkling knock of 48.
“Nice to get some runs there and help out,” he said. “Feeling pretty comfortable with how I have been performing of late. Nice to put some runs on the board that is for sure.”