B McCullum hails NZ fighting spirit
Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand captain, praised his side's battling qualities - epitomised by Martin Guptill's crucial contribution despite struggling with a hamstring injury - as they pulled off victory in a closely contested first ODI against England.
Twice New Zealand fought back, first restricting England to 258 after they had been 184 for 2 in the 39th over and then recovering from 155 for 5 at an almost identical stage in their innings. McCullum smacked an unbeaten 69 from 61 balls and Guptill, who had retired hurt early in the chase, hit four fours and a six after limping back in with seven wickets down to seal a win that puts them 1-0 up in the three-match series.
"It was pretty satisfying. There were many times today when we were, not out of the game but definitely behind the eight-ball," McCullum said. "I thought we showed some fighting characteristics. It's a really important trait for us that we do keep fighting and scrapping like that."
New Zealand had been anchored by Kane Williamson's 74 but when he and James Franklin fell in quick succession, they were effectively six down with 104 needed from 74 balls. McCullum, who came in at No. 6 to allow Grant Elliot to play mainly as a batsman, put on useful partnerships of 31 and 32 with his brother Nathan and Andrew Ellis, before Guptill hobbled out to help finally kick England's feet from under them.
McCullum said he had been "hopeful" that Guptill would be able to return. "We'd discussed once he came off that he'd look to come in at either nine or ten. We knew that running was obviously going to be limited for him, but he's still obviously a very clean striker of the ball. I think it almost played into our hands a little bit, that he was able to look for the boundary.
"He really showed some fighting qualities and he's obviously delighted that he was able to come out injured and play an influential innings for the team."
Alastair Cook admitted that England had failed to ram home their advantage with both bat and ball and said that a lack of "match hardness" had cost them, rather than rustiness, with several players making their first outing of the tour. Fifties from Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott and Joe Root - who earned an ECB increment contract with his eighth appearance of the winter - were not enough, as the other batsmen failed to kick on.
"We got ourselves in position to win that," he said. "But they got themselves over the line, and we couldn't quite manage to put the pressure on them.
"We just kept losing wickets at crucial times, and never really got the partnerships towards the end of the innings - which could have got us up to 280 or 290. We batted well up front, but probably loaded a little bit too much towards the end - put a bit too much pressure on our big hitters. But we got into an okay position to launch; then the guys at the end didn't quite come off."
In the end, it was superior finishing by McCullum and Guptill that proved the difference. "I think both sides would have felt disappointed losing that game," Cook said. "Both sides kind of got themselves in position to win, and someone had to stand up and grab it by the scruff of the neck - and those two did it for New Zealand."