Cricket - McCullum gamble earns Morgan praise

Stand-in England captain Eoin Morgan conceded opposite number Brendon McCullum's leadership was the difference as New Zealand won the first NatWest Twenty20 international by five runs.

PA Sport
Cricket - McCullum gamble earns Morgan praise

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Ravi Bopara, centre, brought England close at the end

McCullum has been lauded for his intuitive captaincy during the Black Caps' tour of England and it proved decisive as they clung on to defend 201 for four on a fast-paced Kia Oval wicket. With England on 134 for two in the 14th over, and seemingly on track for their highest ever chase, McCullum rolled the dice and left in a slip for Morgan.

The left-hander obliged the risk by slashing a chance that Ross Taylor brilliantly held onto before Luke Wright (52) edged behind in the next over to leave England needing 63 from six overs. Ravi Bopara still managed to take the game to the final ball but when he failed to hit Corey Anderson for six. "I think there were a couple of turning points," said Morgan.

"To stop a lot of our momentum they kept taking wickets which is very difficult. They did take a gamble by having a couple of slips in and it did pay off. It could have went either side of him or I could have got more on it. It is little margins to change the game. They weren't on our side."

Despite New Zealand posting their highest score on international soil Morgan felt confident his side could still chase it down - with a shortened southern boundary to target.

"It was probably 10 short of par, but I felt probably we could have easily chased it," he said.

"If we hadn't have lost two wickets around the 14-15 over mark we could have easily chased it down. Coming to the back end we need guys who are established, especially with a short boundary on one side. It's very small margins especially in Twenty20 on a very good wicket. One blow and we would have won the game.

"There is not a great deal to be disappointed about and hopefully we can turn it around for Thursday's second game."

McCullum was pleased with his side's performance but denied his decision to employ a slip had been a risk, but rather a necessity.

"It took a pretty special catch for it to come off," he said. "To me it wasn't a risk because if we didn't have a slip in place the game would have petered out. Sometimes it comes off and looks great - thankfully it did."

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