Former New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum has admitted it was difficult to believe that the team would end their run of near-misses in world events on the final day against India in Southampton while Sir Richard Hadlee lauded the current generation as the country’s greatest ever team.
In the end New Zealand reached their target with eight wickets and time to spare deep in the final session of the match, but for most of the day the tension was palpable. For a little while it appeared Tim Southee’s miss at slip against Rishabh Pant could prove costly and then R Ashwin removed both openers in quick succession in the sort of small chase McCullum termed “horrible.”
However, after Ross Taylor had been spilled at slip off Jasprit Bumrah with 55 needed, the target was brought into view by increasingly confident batting from him and captain Kane Williamson before Taylor whipped a boundary off his pads to earn New Zealand the mace.
“I’m not sure it’s sunk in yet,” McCullum told SEN radio. “Overnight the game was on a bit of a knife-edge – it almost had that feeling of the previous two World Cups, get close but we won’t quite get across the line. But for them to have been able to manufacture a result against the weather and a very formidable Indian side, to do it on the biggest stage is quite superb.
“I’m sure over the coming days, weeks even years we’ll look back at this moment and be so proud of what Kane’s men have been able to achieve and the heights they’ve been able to scale. For a country with pretty limited resources it is pretty amazing really and to do it against the powerhouse of world cricket on the biggest stage is something that makes it more satisfying.”
You could see on the faces of Kane and Ross just how much it meant to them and how satisfying to finally be able to climb that ladder
Hadlee, New Zealand’s leading Test wicket-taker, added significant weight to the debate about where Williamson’s team sits in the history of the game.
“The whole team has shown a high degree of professionalism. Their skill sets have complimented each other to make them a complete playing unit,” Hadlee said in a statement through NZC. “The management and support staff have also played important roles in preparing players to perform at the highest level.
“Over the years NZC have built a significant depth of players, which makes us one of the most competitive teams in world cricket. It’s fair to say that this current group of players is the best in our history.”
New Zealand’s first task of the final day was to take eight India wickets and they were given the ideal start when Kyle Jamieson, who was later named Player of the Match, removed Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara in quick succession.
“I thought the captaincy of Kane Williamson to throw the ball to Kyle Jamieson, against previous routines, at the start of the day’s play was a bit of a masterstroke,” McCullum said. “His height and release point, they measure up so well against the Indian batters. He was able to get the openings and once that happened it really started to sense the belief among the group.”
McCullum, who captained New Zealand to the final of the 2015 World Cup, was also delighted that it was Williamson and Taylor at the crease for the winning moment.
“Those chases are horrible – 140 seems like a mountain of runs, especially when you know what the carrot is at the end,” he said. “Thought it was really fitting to see New Zealand’s two greats, really, when you talk batting, to see [them] home. There was a bit of luck and good fortune along the way but in this game you are entitled to a little bit if you keep banging the door down.
“You could see on the faces of Kane and Ross just how much it meant to them and how satisfying to finally be able to climb that ladder.”
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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