Blackcaps v Sri Lanka: Will Young deflects praise to NZ bowlers after ODI series-clinching win

Cricketers will often tell you the lowest totals can be the most challenging to chase down, and at one stage during the second one-day international against Sri Lanka in Hamilton on Friday, it seemed that may ring true for the Blackcaps.

With a bullseye set on a meagre target of 158 courtesy of an onslaught from the NZ bowlers, the batters stumbled out of the blocks, with openers Chad Bowes and Tom Blundell departing inside the first two overs.

When both captain Tom Latham and Daryl Mitchell followed in similarly cheap fashion to leave New Zealand precariously positioned at 59/4, the tourists had their tails up and eyes set on a shock result.

Fortunately for the hosts, No. 3 Will Young (83no) and Henry Nicholls (44no) were able to drop anchor and stabilise the NZ innings, combining for a fifth-wicket partnership of 100 to navigate the Blackcaps to an ultimately comfortable six-wicket win in the 33rd over, sealing the series 2-0.

The result also consolidates the Blackcaps' place atop the ICC Super League rankings, which replaced the ODI rankings as the route to direct qualification for the World Cup in India in October.

"It was a bit more nerve-racking a bit later, when we were three or four down," Young admitted after the game.

"But one of the great things about this team is that we bat deep, so I had full confidence in the boys that we'd get the job done, and it happened to be Henry that I established a bit of a partnership with.

"It can be quite a tricky time to bat, in that twilight period. We saw that if you hit the strings - and hit a good length - it's going to be challenging at times. We found exactly that when the Sri Lankans got the ball in the right area. There was a bit of swing early, the ball certainly nipped around and there was a little bit of bounce too. 

Will Young and Henry Nicholls celebrate victory.
Will Young and Henry Nicholls celebrate victory. Photo credit: Getty Images

"Conditions were tough at times, but we managed to absorb that to get the job done."

The Blackcaps attack ensured that job was relatively straightforward for their counterparts up the order, claiming three wickets inside the first 10 overs, which soon turned into five in the first 20.

Sri Lanka never recovered from that opening NZ salvo, with opener Pathun Nissanka's 57 off 64 balls the only highlight on their scorecard, with the side bundled out in the 42nd over.

Newcomer Henry Shipley backed up his player-of-the-match performance in the opening ODI with 3/32, while quick Matt Henry (3/14) and Mitchell (3/32) also contributed three wickets apiece.

"In one-day cricket, there's an old adage that if you take three wickets in the first ten, you're doing pretty well, and they took four or five in the first spell or two," Young said of his bowlers. 

"They were incredible. The way they hit their lengths, [and] got the ball to talk in the air and off the wicket was really impressive.

"For [Shipley] to do that in one of his first series is testament to the form he's in. For Matt Henry, it seems like an extension of his red-ball form at the moment. He's hitting the same areas and it's awesome to see.

"I think Tom Latham did a great job in summarising the conditions early, getting fielders in the right positions, and trusting that the ball will go to those attacking fielders. They used the short ball as well. The bowlers and Tommy were singing from the same sheet."

Although Young, 30, scored two centuries against the Netherlands last year, this was his highest score against a top-tier nation in his 10-match ODI career so far, earning player-of-the-match plaudits.

Having played the majority of his international cricket in the test format, Young admitted he was keen to take advantage of his opportunities in the limited-overs format.

"At the end of the day, you're looking to impose yourself and make a match-winning contribution and the better I do that, the better chance I give myself [of securing a place in the team]," he said.

"I don't try to add on any extra responsibility, I just get out there and get into the battle and try to get the job done for the team.

"I've played a bit of test cricket and been around that squad for a while now and it's awesome to get these opportunities in white-ball and I'm hoping it can continue into the future."

He'll have another chance to impress when the Twenty20 series begins on Sunday, with the first of three matches taking place at Auckland's Eden Park.

"We were really consistent in the two games we played in this series, so if we can keep nailing the basics - getting the ball to talk early and taking early wickets, and then just having a positive intent with our batting and looking to score - I'm sure we'll put ourselves in good stead and give ourselves the best chance of winning."

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