Over-eager Kiwis pay price in poor opening effort

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 05:00 23/12/2012
Brendon McCullum
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BRENDON MCCULLUM: "From our point of view, especially from the captain's point of view, the guys were just a little over-keen, myself included."

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In sport, they say the best way to answer your critics is to let your on-field performances do the talking.

After all that has gone wrong for New Zealand Cricket over the past three weeks, the organisation badly needed the Black Caps to not just talk - but shout from the rooftops.

What they got yesterday was more like a whimper, as the era of Brendon McCullum as Black Caps captain began with an eight-wicket loss to the Proteas in their first Twenty20 in Durban.

There was little the Black Caps will be able to take out of the performance, other than the knowledge they won't be able to do much worse in East London tomorrow.

Utterly poor with the bat, New Zealand weren't much better with the ball and noticeably flat in the field as well.

Only three Kiwi batsmen made double figures. Debutant Colin Munro (23) and Doug Bracewell (21 not out) were the only ones who looked remotely close to taking on the hosts' bowling battery.

The collapse of the top and middle order, which left the Black Caps marooned at 36 for 6 after just eight overs, was a start that few international teams would have been able to recover from.

A number of the side were battling a stomach bug - Martin Guptill was removed from the starting line-up - but McCullum wasn't using it as an excuse.

"There's a couple of guys a little bit under the weather, but we had a good team out there today," McCullum, who batted at No 3 yesterday, said.

"Today was one of those situations that happens in Twenty20 cricket where you're trying to be overly aggressive, you give away some wickets, and perhaps don't make the opposition work as hard as what they need to.

"But from our point of view, especially from the captain's point of view, the guys were just a little over-keen, myself included.

"Just a little over-keen to get into the series and really take South Africa on, and I know we'll all be better for the experience of today, and will ensure that in 48 hours' time we will definitely put up a better performance."

With the smoke still rising from the rubble of the poorly-handled sacking of Ross Taylor, it is easy to see why the side were so eager to get out there and prove a point.

And make no mistake: although this is a second-tier South African side with a lot of faces new to international cricket, it is one with power and promise, from seamers Ryan McLaren and Rory Kleinveldt, to baby-faced keeper Quinton de Kock, who looks like he could wield a pretty hefty bat.

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But the pace of the wicket, and New Zealand's badly-managed aggressive approach, proved a bad combination for the Black Caps, McCullum admitted.

"We just probably played a few too many hard shots early on when we weren't quite set and we didn't quite have the pace of the wicket," he said.

"That's something we can definitely learn from and we can factor in for our next game - ensuring we continue with our aggressive intention - but just sure we stick to the fundamentals and give ourselves a real opportunity before we put the hammer down."

A bit of fine tuning is in order before the Black Caps take the field in Durban. The belief is still there, McCullum said; the side just need to control their "keen-ness".

"We 100 per cent believe we can win the next game - we've just got to fine-tune a couple of areas.

"I think we were just overly keen today. You can't fault people for being overly keen for wanting to get into a series, it's just we didn't quite earn the right to be as aggressive as we wanted to be and put South Africa under pressure."

- Sunday Star Times

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