AUCKLAND – Nathan McCullum took four for 24, removing the cream of the West Indies’ batting line-up yesterday, as New Zealand won the first of two Twenty20 cricket internationals by 81 runs.
McCullum, playing his 50th T20 international, dismissed Andre Fletcher for 23, Kieran Powell for 12, Dwayne Bravo for 10 and Andre Russell for 0 in the space of four overs, slicing through the top and middle order as the West Indies were held to 108-8 in reply to New Zealand’s 189-5.
Jimmy Neesham removed opener Johnson Charles for 16, Chadwick Walton for 5 and Sunil Narine for a second-ball duck, taking three for 16 as New Zealand overwhelmed the tourists on a slow pitch at Eden Park.
Wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi scored 48 in an unbroken 85-run stand with captain Brendon McCullum and held two important catches as New Zealand took charge.
Former Australian keeper Ronchi produced an all-round performance which solidified his claims to selection for the Twenty20 World Cup.
He scored his 48 runs from 25 balls, just as New Zealand’s innings had begun to flag, and claimed catches to dismiss both West Indies openers.
While Brendon McCullum top-scored for the hosts, making 60 runs from 45 balls with two fours and four sixes, it was Ronchi who kick-started the innings. He followed the example of Colin Munro whose 22 from 14 balls, including two sixes and a four, was also instrumental in reviving the flagging run rate.
New Zealand won the toss and batted and were contained early on by spinner Samuel Badree who took the new ball and bowled his four overs consecutively at a cost of 25 runs.
None of the New Zealand top order managed to stay long at the crease, though in the context of the match their performances were decisive. Martin Guptill made 25 from 16 balls, Jesse Ryder 22 from 14 and Ross Taylor 5. New Zealand were only 66-3 in the ninth over when Taylor was out and 103-4 when Munro fell in the 13th over.
But the start was better than that made by the West Indies, who struggled against the express pace of Adam Mile and the mixed pace and flight of McCullum.
Milne bowled at more than 155 kph, taking one for 15 from four overs, and McCullum showed his ability to vary his line and flight in difficult batting conditions.
New Zealand’s fielding was also outstanding, exemplified by the one-handed catch claimed by Guptill on the boundary to dismiss Kieran Powell.
“It was a pretty complete performance right from the get-go,” captain Brendon McCullum said. “I thought the momentum we got early on from [Ryder and Guptill] was excellent and then they came back into the game in the middle stages with some pretty good bowling.”
The West Indies now go to Wellington needing to win to square the Twenty20 series after tying the one-day series 2-2 and losing the Test series 2-0. (AP)