Mills proud of 'fighter, scrapper' McCullum

New Zealand

Stand-in captain Kyle Mills deemed Tuesday's tight four-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the second ODI in Hambantota as a "sign of New Zealand's genuine character."

Stand-in captain Kyle Mills deemed Tuesday's tight four-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the second ODI in Hambantota as a "sign of New Zealand's genuine character."

Inclement weather reduced the fixture to a mere 23 overs per side, with quickfire half-centuries from opener Tillakaratne Dilshan and wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara steering the hosts to a formidable total of 138 for one.

The Black Caps' target was later adjusted to 198, as opener Tom Latham and the hard-hitting Luke Ronchi kept the chase on course with a brisk 86 and 49 respectively. Latham and Ronchi departed in quick succession, though, leaving all-rounders Jimmy Neesham and Nathan McCullum to negate the pressurised closing throes.

McCullum, in particular, obliged – striking a four and three sixes off spinner Rangana Herath's final over to give the visitors a crucial lead ahead of the third and final ODI, which will get underway at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium on Saturday.

"We fought pretty hard in this game. Tom played a great hand for us. For a guy so young, he played a very mature innings and never lost his head in any situation. The other guys chipped in," said Mills, who is captaining the side in the absence of the rested Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor and the injured Kane Williamson.

"I thought what Colin Munro did brought a momentum shift even though he didn't get a big score, Luke played exceptionally well, and then to have Nathan to come out at the end and take the game by the scruff of the neck was huge for us.

"It was going to be a tough ask to hit 20 off the last over. Nathan showed great intent as soon as he arrived at the wicket, and he has been hitting the ball reasonably well in the nets. He's a guy who's a bit of a scrapper and a fighter.

"If you want to put any guy in that situation, you probably want to put Nathan there. He played Lasith Malinga with nice intent, and I'm sure it was nice for him personally to have made such a remarkable contribution."

Latham and Ronchi, who struck 19 boundaries and two sixes between them during a pivotal 93-run alliance inside 10 overs, read and exploited the conditions at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium in Sooriyawewa superbly.

"It helped that they were on the pretty extensive A programme that New Zealand Cricket put in place. They had some time over here in Sri Lanka and got used to conditions. I think they had a lot of composure out there in the middle," added Mills.

"It was a tough situation for them and it was the partnership that won us the game. I'm also pleased for Luke that he got a score on the board. It just goes to show that with the introduction of T20 cricket in the last few years, it gives batters the confidence to chase any total down."

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