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McCullum shines as bowlers let India down

Not often does a Test match teeming with possibilities of an exciting finish pale into a dead contest barely an hour into the final morning. But then, expect India to do the unexpected. Atreyo Mukhopadhyay reports.

cricket Updated: Nov 17, 2010 01:30 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Not often does a Test match teeming with possibilities of an exciting finish pale into a dead contest barely an hour into the final morning. But then, expect India to do the unexpected.

Not many gave them a chance to become the world's top Test team when M S Dhoni became captain two years ago. Even fewer would have given the world' s No. 8 team a chance to match them in their own den before this series started.

Continuing from where they had left in the drawn first Test, New Zealand produced another exhibition of dogged batting to first blunt and then frustrate Indian attack, which dismantled a far superior Australian line-up in similar conditions last month. Having watched three teammates score centuries earlier in this series, Brendon McCullum raised the bar on Tuesday with a maiden double. It was a commanding display of bold and watchful batting. The will to dominate was never undermined by any streak of irresponsibility and McCullum fell well after ensuring that India had no chance to win.

This had become clear much earlier, though. India's hopes of doing damage with the second new ball suffered a decisive blow when Zaheer Khan went off with a recurring groin strain. India's principal strike bowler bowled just two overs with new ball and got it to bounce and shape awkwardly twice in the second. In the entire first hour, that was the only time the batsmen looked uncomfortable.

Sreesanth threatened more with his glares than with the ball and the spinners were completely ineffective. True, the pitch offered even bounce with minimal turn but the ease with which batsmen played them on the last day should bother Dhoni ahead of the final Test in Nagpur.

Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha used the width of the crease to vary the angle, came over and around the wicket and yet, they failed to pressurize the batsmen by not bowling enough dot balls. McCullum irritated them with reverse sweeps, scoop shots and by hitting over the top.

Most disconcerting from the Indian point of view was the complete lack of challenge they posed to the batsmen playing their first Test series in India. The ball rarely beat the bat or took the edge and the only time McCullum nicked Harbhajan, substitute Cheteshwar Pujara dropped the chance at forward short-leg. But the batsman had made 148 by then, the total was 307 for four and it was too late for India to push for victory.

McCullum and Kane Williamson not just saw through the first hour. They remained together for 132 minutes before Harbhajan removed Williamson, who was looking good for another century after the one on debut in Ahmedabad. His fifth-wicket partnership with McCullum was worth 124 and sealed the fate of the match called off an hour before the scheduled close