As the Black Caps lurched, another cool hand from Luke saved the day.
For the second time in five days, gloveman Luke Ronchi clutched the man of the match gong after steering New Zealand to a four wicket win over the West Indies, sealing the Twenty20 series 2-0 at Westpac Stadium in Wellington before a crowd of 12,000.
It was tense, but Ronchi busted open the chase for 160, clouting an unbeaten 51 off 28 balls.
He'd arrived at the crease with New Zealand 79-5 and struggling, but with Ross Taylor added a crucial 68. Then with 13 required off 12 balls, Jimmy Neesham stepped up and bashed Tino Best for four and six in successive deliveries.
New Zealand got home with an over to spare in what was a record T20 international run chase on the sluggish stadium pitch in Ronchi's adopted home city. That was game and tour over.
Ronchi had been glancing over his shoulder after a jittery ODI series, but now, following two matchwinning efforts in Auckland and Wellington it's full steam ahead.
"I'm pretty excited, pretty pumped about it. It's just nice to perform. I've been feeling really good but haven't been putting numbers on the board. It's been good to still have the faith of Brendon [McCullum] and Mike [Hesson]."
Closing out series deciders has been New Zealand's achilles heel, after they were terrible in Hamilton and were soundly beaten by England in game three of both series last year. With India looming this was badly needed.
"We talked all week about wanting to close out a series and the way we did it was excellent. We were under pressure with bat and ball but it was good to wrap it up and take a big step for this team," McCullum said.
So it's farewell, West Indies, after an injury-marred six-week tour where their depth was shown up in the absence of seven frontliners, notably Chris Gayle. They didn't put the cue in the rack, either, and were in this game till the end thanks to their generous hosts.
New Zealand started frantically then got the speed wobbles. Jesse Ryder hit his first ball for six, off Jason Holder, and clouted another 25 rows back to be calmly caught by a gentleman in a suit jacket, ineligible for the $100,000 big prize.
Ryder was dropped twice at cover then picked out the off side sweeper. McCullum blazed away then was trapped plumb in front by Sunil Narine; lefties Colin Munro and Corey Anderson spooned easy catches off part-timer Andre Russell.
It was a tricky pitch, but with such a deep batting lineup it was a matter of who would seize the reins. Someone, anyone?
It had to be Taylor, who since his remarkable test series had four single figure scores from five innings against the white ball. He anchored while Ronchi sprinted, blasting 17 off a Dwayne Bravo over to leave New Zealand needing 37 off 30.
At the start, all eyes were on Adam Milne, named in the 13-man ODI squad to face India in Napier on Sunday and coming off his 153kmh thunderbolt in Auckland.
The 21-year-old paceman backed up with two early scalps in an impressive 2-22, although on a sluggish surface the pace wasn't in the realms of Eden Park. A 147kmh effort was his best on the speedgun but he hurried up a few more West Indies batsmen with bounce, and fired in some handy yorkers. A duel with India's gun batsmen is much awaited.
A hardly frightening West Indies batting lineup posted 159-5 as the New Zealand bowlers let them off the hook. Nathan McCullum's spin was excellent again, taking 1-17, but the hosts lacked another slow bowling option. Without the rested Tim Southee they were thin at the death, as Anderson was clouted for 50 off four.
Gloveman Denesh Ramdin bailed his side out with an unbeaten 55 off 31.
Coach Mike Hesson earlier named a predictable squad for the five-match ODI series with India. All 13 who took the field in the 2-2 series draw with West Indies continue on, while backup batsman Munro drops out and Kane Williamson and Kyle Mills return after not being required for the T20 series.
New Zealand ODI squad to face India: Brendon McCullum (captain), Martin Guptill, Jesse Ryder, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson, Luke Ronchi, Jimmy Neesham, Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne.
L Simmons c Neesham b McClenaghan 29
J Charles c Guptill b Milne 7
A Fletcher run out 40
D Bravo b N McCullum 12
C Walton c Ronchi b Milne 0
D Ramdin not out 55
A Russell not out 10
Extras (lb 2, wd 4) 6
Total (for 5 wkts, 20 overs) 159
Fall: 22, 37, 66, 67, 137.
Bowling: M McClenaghan 4-0-29-1, A Milne 4-0-22-2, J Neesham 4-0-39-0 (2w), C Anderson 4-0-50-0 (2w), N McCullum 4-0-17-1.
M Guptill c Ramdin b Holder 1
J Ryder c Simmons b Holder 23
B McCullum lbw Narine 17
R Taylor c Walton b Narine 39
C Munro c Miller b Russell 5
C Anderson c Charles b Russell 6
L Ronchi not out 51
J Neesham not out 14
Extras (lb 3, wd 4) 7
Total (for 6 wkts, 19 overs) 163
Fall: 8, 36, 49, 69, 79, 147.
Bowling: J Holder 3-0-34-2 (1w), T Best 3-0-37-0 (1w), D Bravo 3-0-31-0 (2w), S Narine 3-0-11-2, N Miller 4-0-31-0, A Russell 3-0-16-2.
Result: New Zealand won by four wickets, won series 2-0.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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