Brendon McCullum concedes his side got out of jail after scraping home by one wicket in their Champions Trophy clash against Sri Lanka
New Zealand hold off Malinga magic in Champions Trophy thriller
A Black Caps victory had looked a certainty in their Group A opener when they skittled Sri Lanka out for just 138 inside 38 overs.
Kumar Sangakkara (68) was the only batsman to offer any resistance as Mitchell McClenaghan (four for 43) did most of the damage. But, having reached 48 for one, New Zealand lost three wickets in eight balls for one run to give Sri Lanka a sniff.
It was soon 80 for six and it took valuable contributions from McCullum (18) and his brother Nathan (32) to get New Zealand in sight of victory as Lasith Malinga (four for 34) caused chaos with his swinging full-length deliveries.
Despite a few scares along the way, Tim Southee (13) and McClenaghan (one) got New Zealand home.
"You expect to chase 139 every day of the week but then you see the ball turning, stopping and swinging and you know they have got Malinga and [Rangana] Herath, who are two excellent bowlers on surfaces like that," McCullum said.
"You then know 130-odd is a bigger total than it would probably suggest, but you could say we got out of jail.
"There was composure, and there was a lack of composure at times, but that is because the guys lower down the order are not recognised batsmen.
"But we have guys down there who are experienced players who have a good ability with the bat, who are reasonably calm in pressure situations. I thought Nathan's innings was brilliant, he struck the ball as well as anyone out there, and obviously Tim played a hand getting us over the line."
New Zealand now move on to a meeting with trans-Tasman rivals Australia in their next game, and given the truncated nature of the tournament, McCullum is delighted they will head into that game on the back of a win.
"It's an incredibly valuable win. We were saying in the middle afterwards that it would have been tough to have come back from that, had we not got across the line," he said.
"While it was not as clinical as we may have liked with bat in hand, we still managed to fall across the line and the points are very valuable, especially against a team with the quality of Sri Lanka in those conditions."
Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews, meanwhile, felt the decision not to give Southee out when he was trapped plumb lbw by Malinga with the score on 127 for eight, was the key moment in the game.
Sri Lanka, who face England in their next game, had already used their one review and so the decision stood, although luck had favoured Mathews's side earlier when Daniel Vettori had to go lbw despite getting a clear inside edge.
"The Southee decision was very crucial and it was pretty obvious that he was out," Mathews said.
"The luck swings both ways and it was one of those days when the decisions went against us.
"It changed the whole scenario of the game, it would have been all over [if he had gone]."
Of Malinga's heroics, he added: "He is such a tough guy mentally and physically and he knows exactly what to do in those situations, he is a tail-ender's nightmare. He is so professional, knows his stuff and he is a premium bowler. Hats off to him for his performance."
Follow us @SprtNationalUAE