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Just Wanted to Get Back And Have a Bit of Fun: Guptill

Cricketnext Staff |January 3, 2019, 5:15 PM IST
Just Wanted to Get Back And Have a Bit of Fun: Guptill

Speaking after hitting his 14th ODI century in the first ODI against Sri Lanka at the Bay Oval which New Zealand won by 45 runs, Martin Guptill said that he was just looking to go out into the middle and express himself, after what has been a tough period battling injuries.

"I just wanted to get back in there and have a bit of fun," said Guptill. "I did a lot of hard work to come around and everything is fine with my injuries now.

"It was nice to spend time out in the middle and create a couple of good partnerships that set the innings up - I think that was the key today. The big partnership between Kane and I, then Ross and I, then obviously Jimmy's hitting at the end was the key to getting us over that 350-mark."

Guptill also was effusive in praise of Neesham whose all-round show was key to New Zealand first reaching a mammoth 371/7 and then restricting Sri Lanka's valiant run chase to 326.

"That was pretty impressive hitting," Guptill said of the allrounder. "He strikes the ball as clean as anyone and he came out and bowled extremely well too - I haven't seen him bowl like that for a long time. Nice to have him back and firing."

A chuffed Kane Williamson too lauded the efforts of comeback men Guptill and James Neesham as New Zealand got their 2019 off to an emphatic start.

"Guptill's hundred set the base, he's a world-class player," said Williamson at the post-match presentation ceremony. "The lower and middle order came in and really pushed the total to an area of real strength on a surface that was very good for batting.

"Neesham's was a match-changing contribution and he bowled extremely well too. Lots of good contributions to get us over the line."

Both Neesham and Guptill have played very little to no cricket for New Zealand in the last year or so. While Guptill has laid low with calf and hamstring injuries, last turning out for the Blackcaps in March 2018, this was the first ODI for Neesham in New Zealand colours since June 2017.

However, both players left an indelible mark in their side's first win of the new year. Guptill slammed 11 fours and four sixes in his 138 to lay a solid foundation for the hosts before Neesham ended the innings in a blaze of glory, slamming 47 in 13 balls which included five sixes in a single Thisara Perera over. He then returned to claim 3/38 in eight overs to round off a perfect day.

A 372-run target was always going to be an improbable ask for Sri Lanka, but they showed some good fight, largely riding on the back of Niroshan Dickwella's 50-ball 76 and Kusal Perera's 102. Williamson applauded the way Sri Lanka went about with the chase insisting his team was under pressure 90% of the time.

"Lots of credit to Sri Lanka," said Williamson. "They kept us under pressure for 90% of the time when they were batting.

"The outfield was really random, and the wind factor was the reasons for such high scores. You can take a few wickets early and put scoreboard pressure but that wasn't to be today. It highlighted some areas we can improve on. The ball kept flying around."

The Sri Lankan captain, Lasith Malinga too heaped praise on his batsmen but admitted the bowling needed to come good if his side were to make a comeback in the series. With the next ODI also scheduled to be played on the same ground, Malinga hoped Sri Lanka would take lessons from this game and come out stronger.

"The bowlers didn't deliver many wicket-taking balls. We didn't use variations even on a batting wicket. We have to analyse that and come back stronger in the next game," he said.

"The players realise that we weren't up to the mark. I'm happy with the batting, they capitalized on the situation. That's what we want in the future. I think we can definitely do a better job in the next game."

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