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Failure to finish off tailenders worries McCullum

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 10:54 13/01/2014

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Brendon McCullum
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HITS OUT: Brendon McCullum swings wildly in the first T20.
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It might sound like a sexy number, but 153 is still 50 short of the one at the forefront of the Black Caps' mind.

When you get beaten by 203, as New Zealand did in their final one-day international against the West Indies last Wednesday, you don't forget in a hurry.

So while everyone's happy that fast bowler Adam Milne clocked 153.1kmh during Saturday's 81-run Twenty20 win over the Windies at Eden Park, and especially that he only went for 15 off his four overs, it's what happens next at Westpac Stadium on Wednesday that really matters.

A week ago, the Black Caps were said to be pounding the most pathetic West Indian team to tour New Zealand, or anywhere for that matter. The results during the rest of their truth were a foregone conclusion, with only the margin of New Zealand's inevitable victories up for discussion.

Except then the Windies went out on Hamilton's Seddon Park and posted 363-4 and rolled the hosts for 160, to draw the one-day series two-all.

That's not something you need to remind Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum of, or that his team weren't able to bowl the Windies out on Saturday. Seventy-seven for eight, chasing 190 to win in Auckland, the tourists' ninth-wicket pair of Nikita Miller and Samuel Badree put on an unbeaten 31, giving McCullum cause to question whether his bowlers have entirely recovered from their horrendous outing in Hamilton.

"Our bowling was very good when it needed to be and at the end there, when we were trying to execute some pretty strong plans at the death, I thought our execution still needs some work. But at least we had some strong plans and knew what we were trying to do," McCullum said after the Eden Park win.

Wednesday's clash at Westpac Stadium is the last Twenty20 International New Zealand will play before the World Cup begins in Bangladesh in March. That adds a degree of importance to the occasion, but for reasons that McCullum indicated were as much to do with the recent past as the future.

"Yes we need to ensure we're ready to go to that T20 World Cup, but we've also got another opportunity to close out a series and we missed one the other day [in Hamilton] and if we're serious about trying to win big tournaments then you've got to close out those sorts of games, so Wellington presents a big challenge for us and I'm looking forward to seeing how we respond," said McCullum.

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On an individual basis, he'll no doubt be approaching the game with some confidence. His innings of 60 not out at Eden Park was exactly the sort of knock McCullum's critics would say he was incapable of.

But if he can play another mature, responsible, well-paced hand, then he might silence one or two ahead of the coming series against India.

You could say similar for wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi, whose 45 not out from 28 balls provided a taste of the talent he's displayed at domestic level for Wellington.

- The Dominion Post

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