McCullum century not enough for the BLACKCAPS

Vice-captain Brendon McCullum's heroics couldn't avert a six-wicket defeat for New Zealand as their bowling attack was exposed by the Prime Minister's XI in the cricket tour match here today.

New Zealand's 271 for five, thanks to McCullum's fighting 114, wasn't enough at a sweltering Manuka Oval as the hosts cantered home with 13 balls to spare.

Tasmanian George Bailey led the way with an unbeaten 107, including a 153-run fourth-wicket stand with captain Justin Langer (72) as the tourists fried in the field with the mercury topping 37C.

They now fly to Perth for Sunday's Chappell-Hadlee Trophy opener against Australia with some of their injury worries eased but concern over how their bowlers can quell the home batsmen.

Spinner Jeetan Patel bowled better than his figures of two for 51 suggested while Iain O'Brien, Grant Elliott and debutant Trent Boult all went at worse than six an over. Seamer Tim Southee is expected to return for Perth after being rested today.

It all started so well for New Zealand, 24 hours after a horror first practice session when McCullum limped about with a hip flexor strain, and opening partner Jesse Ryder's tour was in doubt when he aggravated a left shoulder problem.

An MRI scan today cleared Ryder of serious injury and manager Lindsay Crocker said he would target a return for the second ODI in Melbourne next Friday.

Then McCullum got into his work after Langer kindly sent New Zealand in on a flat, slow pitch offering little for the bowlers.

It was already quite a week for McCullum, who scored 10 in his Australian Twenty20 debut for New South Wales. Having averaged just 21.50 in the recent series against the West Indies, New Zealand's batting talisman needed to bank some runs.

Limping and unable to stretch out fully, McCullum reached a half-century off a relatively sedate 79 balls, with just three fours, against a bowling attack of promising youngsters.

He then opened the shoulders, hitting nine fours and a six in his 130-ball, 194-minute knock before being caught on the boundary in the 50th over.

The recalled Peter Fulton dominated their 81-run second wicket stand with a brisk 53 before he was caught behind, while Ross Taylor tuned up for Perth with 38 off 41 balls.

McCullum sat out the PM's 11 reply, handing the wicketkeeping gloves to local 18-year-old Ryan Carters. His injury will be reassessed tomorrow before being cleared to keep wicket in Perth.

New Zealand were in the box seat when they reduced the hosts to 71 for three in their chase. Boult struck with his eighth delivery when Michael Klinger was caught by Neil Broom from a mistimed hook, then had another tougher chance shelled by Broom and conceded 56 off seven overs in all in a tough debut.

Patel removed test hopeful Phillip Hughes for 22 with his third delivery, a gem of a quicker ball which snuck between bat and pad.

Missed chances cost the tourists, the most notable when O'Brien dropped Bailey on 35 at deep mid-wicket off Elliott.

It was an unhappy afternoon for O'Brien, who claimed Callum Ferguson caught behind for 30 but conceded 48 off eight, while captain Daniel Vettori bowled 10 wicketless overs for 42.

NZPA

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