Nathan McCullum savours his six appeal

Nathan McCullum knows what it's like to be hit for six but he was the one doing the damage as New Zealand beat Sri Lanka in the World Twenty20 opener.

updated: May 01, 2010 07:54 IST
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Providence, Guyana:

Nathan McCullum knows what it's like to be hit for six but he was the one doing the damage as New Zealand beat Sri Lanka in a thrilling World Twenty20 opener here.

New Zealand, needing three runs to win with two balls to spare, saw McCullum, better known as an off-spinner, loft fast bowler Lasith Malinga for six over long-off yesterday.

Man-of-the match McCullum's superb shot saw New Zealand finish on 139 for eight in reply to Sri Lanka's 135 for six.

It capped a memorable day for McCullum, whose unbeaten 16 came off six balls with 13 of his runs, including a four and a six, coming in the last over.

His innings was played in a match where his younger brother Brendon, renowned as one of the world's best Twenty20 batsman, was out for nought.

"I've been there a couple of times and a couple of times I've been on the other end of it," Nathan McCullum said.

"It's good to finally get one go our way."

McCullum's batting exploits were made all the more notable in that the man who he struck for boundaries was Malinga, whose unorthodox, 'slingshot' action had often confounded many of the world's best batsmen.

"He's very good at that (bowling at the death) and he doesn't often miss but luckily he missed one today and we were able to get it away."

Earlier McCullum was given the new ball, as was New Zealand off-spinnerDipak Patel at the 1992 World Cup, and found himself bowling to Tillakaratne Dilshan, player of the tournament at last year's World Twenty20 in England.

But McCullum held his nerve and returned impressive figures of one wicket for 17 runs from his three overs.

"I've come up against a few people like that lately," McCullum said. "I was opening against West Indies with Chris Gayle the other day. It's a daunting task but something I enjoy, I've done it a few times now and I enjoy the challenge at the top."

Meanwhile Sri Lanka coach Trevor Bayliss refused to blame Malinga for the defeat suffered by last year's losing finalists.

"You'd probably back him more times than not," Bayliss insisted. "Having said that, it shouldn't have got down to the last over and all being on Lasith's shoulders. It's certainly not his fault."

The Australian added: "We were a little off our game in most departments. Our batting didn't score as many runs in the first six overs as we normally do, our fielding could have been a bit better.

"It wasn't too bad, but not quite good enough at this level."

Mahela Jayawardene's first match as an opener at this level saw the veteran batsman top score with 81 but Dilshan had no answer to the combination of McCullum's spin and Shane Bond's pace.

His three runs took him 19 balls but Bayliss said: "In the last 18 months Dilshan has been unbelievable and you can't have that sort of form and not be able to score runs.

"I'm sure in the next game or two we'll see the best of him."

Looking ahead, Bayliss added: "If we win every game from here we'll be champions. But there's no room for anymore mistakes."

Meanwhile New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori said of starting with a win: "It's pretty big because otherwise the last game becomes do or die.

"Zimbabwe have shown their hand by beating Australia in the first warm-up game so are obviously competitive in this format."