Stuart Broad, the England captain, saluted the match-winner Luke Wright after his brilliant 99 not out set the platform for a crushing win over Afghanistan at the World Twenty20.
The defending champions piled up 196 for five and then bowled Afghanistan out for 80 in Colombo.
Broad said: “We batted with maturity on a wicket we expected to play a little better for the batsmen actually. Luke Wright’s innings was outstanding and the way the guys struck the ball towards the end was very powerful and exciting to see.”
A late flurry from Gulbodin Naib, who scored a rapid unbeaten 44, ensured Afghanistan avoided total humiliation, having at one stage been 26 for eight.
“They got a couple of runs towards the end, that’s to be expected in Twenty20 cricket,” Broad said on Sky Sports 1.
“But we’re delighted with that performance. It’s a great way to start the tournament. Hopefully we can kick on as well.”
Wright has been the beneficiary of Ravi Bopara’s poor run of form and tonight’s innings should cement his place in the side.
“It’ll do his confidence the world of good,” he said. “He showed a huge amount of maturity. I think he’s developed as a cricketer over the last couple of years. He’s played all around the world and that experience showed today.”
England are now assured of a place in the Super Eight stages, irrespective of how they fare on Sunday against India – who have also qualified after their own opening Group A win over Afghanistan.
Broad stressed there would be no letting up from England though, with the captain keen to build momentum.
“I think it’s hard to call any international game a dead game. We’ll all be fired up and wanting a win. That’s the only attitude we’ll take when we cross that line,” he said.
Wright savoured his innings, even if he was just short of becoming the first England player to score a century in Twenty20 internationals.
“It was a bit of a special evening. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do,” he said. “I was desperate to get back in and try to win games for England.”
The 30-year-old right hander smashed seven sixes and 11 boundaries during his 58-ball 123 to give New Zealand, who reached 191 for three in their 20 allotted overs, a rampaging start to the group D match played under overcast conditions.
McCullum's clean hitting made it gloomy for Bangladesh who were restricted to 132 for eight in their 20 overs, with Tim Southee (3-16) and Kyle Mills (3-33) sharing the spoils.
Nasir Hossain played a lone fighting hand with an impressive 39-ball 50, studded with six boundaries and a six while opener Mohammad Ashraful made 21. Shakib Al Hasan fell for 11.
The New Zealand captain Ross Taylor praised McCullum's robust innings.
"When you have someone score a century in T20 you're always in the box seat," said Taylor. "The wicket nipped around early on and seemed to zip on a little bit under the lights. Hopefully this win will give us momentum."
The Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim said McCullum had made all the difference.
"We bowled well in the first few overs but McCullum, even when he doesn't hit the ball well, it's still going for six. We'll look at our strengths and come up with a new strategy for the next game," said Rahim.
It was all McCullum when New Zealand batted after being sent by Bangladesh.
McCullum hit two sixes in Abdur Razzak's last over of the innings to go clear of South African Richard Levi's previous highest score of 117 made against New Zealand in Hamilton earlier this year.
He fell caught off the last delivery to end Bangladesh's miseries but not before helping New Zealand to 63 runs off the last four overs.
New Zealand lost Martin Guptill in the fourth over but McCullum ensured a big total with his ruthless slogging, hitting Hasan for two sixes in his successive overs.
He added 94 for the second wicket with James Franklin who made 35 and 78 for the third wicket Taylor (14).
McCullum reached his tenth half-century off just 29 balls with the first of two successive boundaries off Ziaur Rahman and continued with the same aggression.
He was dropped on 92 before hitting two boundaries off Elias Sunny to complete his ton off 51 balls.
The knock was McCullum's second T20 century. His first came against Australia at Christchurch in 2010.
New Zealand next play Pakistan here on Sunday. The top two teams will qualify for the Super Eight round.
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