Black Caps impress in T20 win over Windies
Nathan McCullum celebrated his 50th Twenty20 international with four wickets as the Black Caps returned to form with an empathic 81-run win over the West Indies at Eden Park tonight.
But attention will rapidly focus on the overdue unleashing of fast bowler Adam Milne.
Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar Younis, Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Allan Donald, Nantie Hayward and, of course, New Zealand's own Shane Bond.
What do they have in common? All were firebrand fast bowlers capable of sending down the leather ball at speeds above 150km/h.
Make no mistake, that's no fun to face.
Now we know Milne can do likewise. New Zealand may have, finally, unearthed another bowler with genuine fear factor.
Kept on ice until last night, Milne confirmed his raw potential, sending the speed radar soaring to an astonishing 153.2 km/h with one delivery. And the 150km barrier was no fluke.
Milne took his second T20 wicket in his fifth match, beating opener Lendl Simmons with pure pace. The 21-year-old Palmerston North quick has long been touted as a strike weapon, but before last night had only been sighted once this summer, bowling two overs at the death in Queenstown.
Black Caps bowling coach Bond has endorsed Milne as one to watch and now we understand why. Finally handed the new ball, not only did Milne regularly hurry the opposition, he was also controlled and accurate. He set the tone from the outset of the West Indies' daunting 190-run chase, finishing with 1-15 from four overs.
Off-spinner McCullum also had an impressive 4-23, while all-rounder Jimmy Neesham killed off the limp Windies' effort with the bat (108-8), taking a career-best 3-16 in just his fourth international after a 12 month hiatus in this arena.
After stalling early on, wicketkeepers Brendon McCullum and the under-pressure Luke Ronchi rescued the Black Caps from a precarious position to post 189-5 batting first, their second-highest T20 total against the visitors.
Without their well-paced 85-run partnership from 43 balls, the hosts could have been in serious trouble.
McCullum never looked comfortable at the crease but he showed rare patience and composure to hang tough despite not finding the middle of the bat often. The captain notched an at times frustrating half century in Tino Best's final over with back-to-back sixes - one a trademark scoop shot over his head - and finished 60 not out from 45 balls. Not a bad day given his obvious struggles.
After failing to perform in the recent ODI arena, Ronchi needed to mount a case and his best T20 score of 48 not out from 25 balls should momentarily silence the critics.
The Wellington gloveman came in after the Windies' three-pronged spin attack of Sunil Narine, Samuel Badree and Nikita Miller (2-26) put on the breaks.
Taking the pace off the ball on a dead-flat drop-in wicket made life difficult for the batsman, but Ronchi hit seven boundaries, including four sixes, to take much-needed heat off McCullum at the other end. The pair also scampered between the wickets when they couldn't hit the fence.
Openers Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder and all-rounder Colin Munro got starts while attempting to add some impetus but a typically exuberant Best, who wears his heart on his sleeve, recovered from taking an early pasting to finish with 3-40 and help stall progress at regular intervals.
Now we wait to see if the McCullum's men and Milne can back-up these efforts and wrap up the series in Wellington on Wednesday.