Rarely has a man of the match looked so tortured.
Opener Martin Guptill clutched his bottle of bubbly in the rain at Saxton Oval on Saturday as his topscore of 81 earned him the gong after New Zealand's 58-run victory over West Indies.
But he hardly felt like uncorking it, grand prix style. Instead he delivered a gentle spray to some of the Nelson crowd who got on his back when he was two off 29 balls and struggling against pacemen Tino Best and Jason Holder.
"I think people expect too much sometimes. They don't know what the conditions are like out in the middle. If they want us to go at 10 an over from the start on a wicket like that, then they're dreaming," Guptill said.
The Jesse Ryder-Corey Anderson onslaught in Queenstown raised expectations through the pavilion roof at Saxton, where a 5300-sellout turned up, including a plethora of orange T-shirt wearers, hoping to catch a six one-handed and win $100,000.
Just five cleared the rope and no one collected the cash before rain at 5.15pm ended the match early.
Guptill described the pitch as two-paced with tennis ball bounce, after ground staff had a tough time amid nearly 100mm of rain in the lead-up.
"I didn't really feel that great throughout the whole innings. It was tough early on to get any timing, but to battle through it and end up with 80 was pretty pleasing."
With his opening partner Ryder breezing along at a run a ball, Guptill scored eight off his first 40 deliveries with cries of "come on, Guppy" ringing out as every run was cheered. Then he broke the shackles with a huge straight six off Dwayne Bravo.
Guptill battled through, lasting till the 42nd over in a 119-ball knock that included four fours and two sixes. It's hard to please some people, and in the end it was the classic old-fashioned opener's innings, setting the platform as Ryder, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor all hit quickfire 40s in New Zealand's 285-6.
"I didn't think it was a 280 wicket. I only batted 10 balls out there but it certainly felt a lot tougher than 280," said captain Brendon McCullum.
The picturesque Saxton Oval with its grass banks and shiny $3.5 million pavilion became New Zealand's 13th ODI venue and got a healthy pass mark from players and officials.
Some teething problems with queues at the gate and not enough portable toilets were seen as minor.
But the ground should get Nelson another ODI against Sri Lanka in a year's time as a final dress rehearsal for their hosting of World Cup matches.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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