The Dominion Post

Black Caps on song in emphatic win

- MARK GEENTY

THE 10-day countdown to the World Cup begins as the Black Caps try to remain grounded after one of their more emphatic pretournam­ent statements.

The players disperse for a few days’ rest before re-assembling in Christchur­ch this weekend, their status as one of the teams to watch confirmed by a double demolition of Pakistan.

Led by man of the match Kane Williamson’s 112 off 88 balls and a whirlwind 70-ball century from Ross Taylor, the hosts plundered 369-5 at Napier’s McLean Park. Their fifth-highest total was comfortabl­y enough to complete a 2-0 sweep, winning game two by 119 runs.

The Black Caps’ team song Black and White rang out from their dressing room. Captain Brendon McCullum said after their fifth win from their past six ODIs, against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, that the challenge was to keep the momentum flying into the six-week tournament. ‘‘It’s been a great buildup and we’ve got no excuses,’’ McCullum said as they eye their opener against Sri Lanka in Christchur­ch on Saturday week.

There was some batting beauty from Williamson, before some brutality from Taylor, in his 150th ODI, as a belter of a pitch oozed runs on a sweltering afternoon.

Williamson hardly raised a sweat, underlinin­g his status as the Black Caps’ most valuable player heading into the tournament. It was his sixth ODI century, and his 12th innings over 50 in the past year, taking in the India series at home.

The thing that stood out was the effortless way he did it, at a strike rate of 127 with a six and 14 fours. Williamson worked the bowlers with impeccable timing to all parts of McLean Park, then unleashed some savage pull shots and lofted cover drives.

He rated his own knock as ‘‘all right’’ in a typically understate­d way. Williamson reserved praise for Taylor, who had to clout Bilawal Bhatti for six and four off the final two balls of the innings to reach three figures.

‘‘It was an outstandin­g hundred the way he [Taylor] kept momentum from the start and finished it off with a flurry of boundaries. It was just what the team required.’’

Taylor’s 12th ODI century featured 13 fours and two sixes, one of which sailed out of the ground over mid-wicket. After a lean run for Taylor early in the Sri Lanka series, getting him and Williamson firing on the same day looms as crucial to New Zealand’s chances over the cup.

Opener Martin Guptill boosted his confidence no end to set the platform with 76 off 88 balls, his highest score in 15 ODI innings.

New Zealand’s fielding was sharp and desperate. The pace trio of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Adam Milne combined for the first time this summer and could be the starters for Sri Lanka. Milne topped 150kmh again and snared two wickets in his second spell.

The standout was spinner Daniel Vettori who looks a certain starter against Sri Lanka, too. He took 1-41 off 10, a huge effort in the context of the match, and his dismissal of Shahid Afridi slammed the door shut.

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