Playing their first match as a team post Brendon McCullum’s retirement, New Zealand faced little discomfort against a Sri Lanka outfit in the first of their two warm-up ties leading up to the World Twenty20.
McCullum’s absence was hardly noticeable on the night. New Zealand’s other big-hitter Colin Munro produced a swash-buckling knock of 67 in just 34 balls to light up the Wankhede stadium on Thursday and help New Zealand post a total of 226 for four.
New Zealand’s lower order also supported with big hits of their own. Corey Anderson (60) complimented Munro perfectly as they shared 12 sixes between them.
Munro’s knock included seven sixes and astonishingly, not a single four. In one particular over, Munro smashed four successive sixes off young Sri Lankan pacer Dasun Shanaka. While he could not quite make it a perfect over, the manner in which he smashed a ball showed the same kind of intensity that McCullum would bring to game.
Since McCullum’s announcement to call it quits from all forms of international cricket, the search among New Zealand selectors and cricket fans has been to find a suitable replacement that imbibes the same ferocity that he brought to batting.
Munro, who bats at number three in the T20 format, is being seen as a big-hitter who can fill in the big shoes. Earlier this year, Munro passed the first step of this test when he smashed the second fastest T20 half century with a 14-ball blitzkrieg against Sri Lanka.
On Thursday, the 28-year-old furthered his case.
“He’s a hell of a player,” said Anderson of Munro. “He’s been doing that domestically for a, long time now and I guess he’s taken his chance during our home summer and he’s come on leaps and strides to become the No 3 in this team.”
“He’s just banging it every game basically. It’s tough to bowl to him when he’s in that sort of form. It’s nice to know it’s going to free up the other end and it’s exciting as well.”
The World T20 provides a stern final test for Munro in filling in McCullum’s role. While these knocks have gone a long way in making him the best contender, sterner tests and bowling attacks await him in the next few days. How he handles it will be key for New Zealand and fans who await another New Zealand big-hitter who can match McCullum’s high standards.