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There was only one thing holding Luke Ronchi back from delivering match winning knocks.
"My head, that's all it was. Just me thinking too much about stuff I don't need to think about," said Ronchi who last night steered the Black Caps to a Twenty20 victory over the West Indies.
"There was no pressure from Brendon [McCullum], Hess [coach Mike Hesson] or anyone else, just me thinking too much about stuff and that's where I get myself in trouble."
The Wellington wicketkeeper talked it over with some trusted individuals, relaxed and played his natural game this week. He became a wrecking ball to unsuspecting bowlers, playing match winning innings in back-to-back games.
In Auckland he hit 48 not out off 25 balls to boost New Zealand to an unassailable 189-5, then in the series decider in Wellington last night he blazed an unbeaten 51 off 28.
It was match and series to New Zealand 2-0 as they beat the West Indies by four wickets, chasing 160 at Westpac Stadium.
The Dannevirke-born 32-year-old, whose parents shifted the family to Perth where he learned his craft from Adam Gilchrist, finally feels at home in the black cap.
It took a while to feel that way as he struggled as an opener in England last year, then couldn't produce too much of substance with the bat in the 2-2 ODI home series draw with West Indies.
The memory of his 22-ball half-century for Australia against West Indies in 2008 was drifting further away.
"It's just confidence, just nice to know I can actually do it. Now I've got to stay consistent and stay nice and relaxed and just play the way I play and not think about outside factors that don't matter."
Now he can attack the five-match ODI series against India, starting in Napier on Sunday, with a swagger and some long-term job security.
His captain, Brendon McCullum, whose back injury opened the door for Ronchi to take the limited overs gloves full time, hailed the late arrival of their matchwinner who seized a finely balanced contest from the West Indies in Auckland and Wellington.
"Confidence is a beautiful thing in this game and that score in the last game just gave him that little bit more freedom to play his natural game. We know how good he is and everyone else is starting to see it," McCullum said.
New Zealand were flying along last night, but also losing wickets fast at 79-5. Ronchi and Ross Taylor (39 off 41) steadied the ship then Ronchi sprinted, taking 17 off a Dwayne Bravo over before Jimmy Neesham went 4, 6, 4 off Tino Best to seal the match with an over to spare.
Having stumbled badly in the ODI series decider in Hamilton to finish 2-2, and been heavily beaten in the T20 and ODI deciders against England last year, this was something of a breakthrough for New Zealand.
It wasn't perfect with bat or ball, but it was vital heading to Napier for a big series opener against the world No 1.
New Zealand have named an unchanged 13-man squad for the ODI series with backup batsman Colin Munro omitted, Kane Williamson and Kyle Mills returning and Adam Milne retained.
The 21-year-old fast bowler only hit 147kmh on the sluggish Westpac Stadium pitch, but was excellent with bouncers and yorkers, taking 2-22.
It leaves some selection headaches for the pace attack, with Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan, Mills and Milne all vying for spots.
"He [Milne] was brilliant again tonight. It was quite a slow surface but he asked plenty of questions pace-wise,'' McCullum said.
''The areas he operated in were good aggressive areas and he got the rewards again. It was another big step for him to put two games together."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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