Nathan McCullum savours his six appeal

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."



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