WELLINGTON: An exhausted Brendon McCullum looked wearily back at the Basin Reserve wicket as the sun that had beat down upon him for almost six hours on Sunday was slowly sinking and knew he would need to do the same again on Monday. The New Zealand captain had just slowly trudged off the field at the end of the third day of the second Test against India on 114 not out having thwarted the visitors’ push for a series-levelling victory on Sunday.
Battling shoulder injury and a dodgy back, McCullum combined with wicketkeeper BJ Watling (52) in an unbroken 158-run partnership to guide the hosts to 252 for five, a lead of six runs, after they had slumped to 94 for five in their second innings and faced the possibility of an early end to their season. “To be honest we would probably need a double century to keep us in this game,” McCullum told Radio Sport as he contemplated the match situation following his ninth Test century. “If BJ and I can emulate what we did today tomorrow, then tomorrow night it will be great to be able to make some decisions about where the game will go rather than trying to fight out of it.”
McCullum scored a double century in the 40-run first Test victory at Eden Park and has now scored three centuries during New Zealand’s international season at home. His batting resurgence, along with the tremendous form shown by Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson, has allowed New Zealand to set the tempo of the game from the beginning against West Indies and India this summer. New Zealand’s ability to make a big score in their first innings has then allowed McCullum the licence to attack the opposition through his pace trio of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner.
The hosts, however, have been on the back foot at the Basin Reserve from the second India’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni won his seventh successive toss and asked McCullum’s team to bat on the green wicket. McCullum has said previously that he felt the team has been showing grit and determination in the last 12 months despite results not going their way, which was something the New Zealand public could identify with and admire. Sunday’s performance from himself and Watling had epitomised that and the remains of a 3839 crowd warmly applauded them off at the end of the day.
“If we had rolled over in this Test match it would have been slightly disappointing given how successful our summer has been,” McCullum said in reference to the 2-0 Test series victory over West Indies last December and 4-0 thrashing of India in their one-day series before the Tests. “That’s the beauty of winning consistently and not finding yourself in too many of these situations. When you do find yourselves in them its a bit easier to get out of. “It’s a good start for us today but we know that we have so much more hard work to go tomorrow.”
While India were frustrated by McCullum and Watling’s partnership, a record for the sixth wicket for New Zealand against India, they recognised they were still very much in control of the game. “We would have been a little more happy if we got a few more wickets,” top-order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara told reporters. “But we are still in a very good position to win the Test. “You have to give credit to the batting team. The partnership was really good. Brendon batted well and that partnership was crucial for them. “Ultimately they were the winners in the last session, but if we get a couple of early wickets tomorrow then we can go through the tail-enders.”
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