New Zealand's captain, Brendon McCullum, was full of praise for a narrow one-wicket victory against Sri Lanka which broke a run of 10 out of 11 defeats against them in 50-over cricket.

The win came on a used Cardiff pitch that McCullum dubbed "incredibly difficult". New Zealand looked to be cruising at 48 for 1, needing only 139 to win, but their ninth wicket fell with five still needed before they squeezed over the line.

Sri Lanka were harshly done to by a rejected lbw decision against Tim Southee when he was struck on the boot by Lasith Malinga and got four runs instead.

Their frustration with several decisions led to Mahela Jaywardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan being reprimanded for excessive appealing. Both players pleaded guilty and lost 50 per cent of their match fee.

Nathan McCullum, made Man of the Match for his all-round performance of 2 for 23 and 32, was also fortunate to survive a catch at the wicket against Shaminda Eranga on 16 when only the wicketkeeper, Kumar Sangakkara, appealed for a nick revealed later by Hot Spot.

"I think today's wicket was an incredibly difficult wicket to bat on," said Brendon McCullum. "You sort of expect to chase 138 every day of the week, and then you see the ball sort of turning, stopping, keeping low and swinging, and you know that you've got Malinga to deal with and you know that 130-odd is a lot bigger total than what it suggests.

"These points were incredibly valuable especially against a team as dangerous as Sri Lanka in these conditions. They obviously knew the pitch was going to dry out a touch as well and the new ball was going to come into effect.

"I mentioned out on the field afterwards actually that I think it would have been quite a tough one to come back from if we hadn't gotten across the line.

"Nathan was obviously brilliant how he struck the ball as well as anyone else did on that surface, and obviously Tim as well showing some nice composure there towards the end.

"Once Nathan got out that was probably when things got a little bit nervy. But once we got down to the last few runs, it wasn't too bad because I knew that Tim Southee had faced a lot of balls against Malinga, and he was one of those guys that once you face him for a period it becomes a touch easier."

The match marked Daniel Vettori's first appearance for New Zealand since World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka in Pallakele in September last year and his wicket of Jaywardene made a contribution to Sri Lanka's victory.

"His wicket of Jayawardene was a huge wicket for us," McCullum said. "That was some really good prep and planning from us as well. It was a huge moment in the game where we were able to dismiss one of the most experienced players. But also in the other overs he asked a lot of questions and certainly played a valuable role for us.

"I think he'll be okay for the next few games. He's certainly no spring chicken in the field, but a couple of us aren't quite what we used to be on the field as well.

New Zealand now face a dilemma whether to field Vettori against Australia at Edgbaston on Wednesday or save him until they face England in Cardiff two days later on what could potentially be another spin-friendly surface. It may depend how he reacts to his first match action for such a prolonged period.

"We want to keep using Danny as we go through," McCullum said. "He's valuable to us. Knowing that the wicket, when we get back here, is likely to be similar to what we had today, our assessment of the wicket that we'll play at Edgbaston is very important.

"If it isn't going to have the same grip or stop or turn as we're seeing here, then we've got to marry up the risk of playing Dan, knowing we've still got some valuable men on the squad that can fill that void. But we'll have to talk to Dan and wait and see."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo