McCullum hails 'phenomenal' victory
Brendon McCullum termed New Zealand's series victory against South Africa "phenomenal" after their 27-run win in Kimberley and hoped it would send "a bit of love" to the supporters.
After two Test matches that produced a combined total of seven days play and two innings defeats there were low expectations of New Zealand coming into the one-day games, but they clinched a one-wicket win in Paarl and caused South Africa to implode during their run chase in the second match with five run-outs. The hosts had raced to 167 for 1 in the 31st over when Graeme Smith's run-out ended a century partnership with Colin Ingram and proved to be the turning point of the game. McCullum admitted New Zealand had been under pressure till that point, but hadn't given up hope.
"There was a period there when we were definitely behind the game," McCullum said after the match. "What we kept saying to each other out there was that we had a good score on the board, courtesy Kane's [Williamson] innings and Grant [Elliott] and Kane's partnership. We just looked to hang in there, show the characteristics we want to be known for as a team and just keep fighting as hard as we possibly could.
"If we got one or two wickets, then we could try and exert some pressure on them. As it happened we got a couple through run outs, managed to get some momentum and I thought after that we just kept applying the pressure and in the end it came pretty good for us."
It also clinched New Zealand's first series win in any format in South Africa. "It's a phenomenal win, the ninth-ranked team in the world against the top team," McCullum said at the post-match presentation. "It'll go down as one of our biggest wins in the limited-overs games."
Coming after the severe defeats in the two Tests, McCullum spoke of how proud he was with the way his side had fought back, in the absence of several key players. "The enormity of the task had sunk in before we undertook the series. We knew how big this series was. They beat us very comfortably in the Tests. We knew we had to play out of our skins to get the victories. I think the characteristics we showed in the first game really flowed on to this game as well. Very proud at the moment of each individual within our group, support staff and players alike. Also pleased to be able to show some love for the fans back home who have stuck by us through a pretty tough time.
"It is important to acknowledge that we have missed Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryder, Dan Vettori, Tim Southee, Adam Milne. What that has done is it has given other guys an opportunity to stand up. To see guys stand up from domestic cricket to international cricket and also some of the newish guys stand up and take a more leading role in the group was fantastic. It will only make us stronger when those other guys come back into the mix."
The victory was set up by a magnificent innings from Williamson who struck an unbeaten 145 to lead New Zealand to a competitive, but far from overwhelming, 279 for 8. It had been a difficult tour for Williamson, who struggled against pace in the Tests, but he controlled his innings superbly especially through a middle-order wobble.
"Williamson's innings was as good as we've seen from a New Zealander," McCullum said, before giving a mention to his brother. "Nathan McCullum was phenomenal in that spell of bowling and the fielding was probably as good as we have shown. I'm very pleased."
Williamson, who suffered cramp in the later stages of his innings which had started in the third over, said: "It was nice to contribute like that in such an important game. It's been tough playing the No. 1 team in the world. I cramped up a little bit but the guys at the other end helped us get a good total... I got regular drinks, took a few tablets and it seemed to ease off a little bit. During the break, it was a key time to hydrate and get back on the park.
"[This win] would be right up there. The one against South Africa at the World Cup would be right up there as well. Every win we get has been hard to come by of late, especially against such quality opposition. It is great to take the series."