McCullum fightback holds up India's victory push

  • N Ananthanarayanan, Hindustan Times, Wellington
  • Updated: Feb 17, 2014 02:50 IST

New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum left India toiling after they dropped him twice, scoring an uncharacteristically patient unbeaten century to ensure his team averted an innings defeat on the third day of the second Test at the Basin Reserve on Sunday.

McCullum curbed his attacking instincts and rode his luck to pull the Kiwis, who were 246 runs behind on the first innings, to 252 for five at stumps.

He raised an unbroken 158-run sixth wicket partnership with wicketkeeper BJ Watling, who was 52 not out, as the pair dug deep into their defensive game as well as concentration.

The pair came together after New Zealand had been reduced to 94 for five soon after the lunch interval and have batted together for more than four hours to lead a remarkable fightback.

India will look to exploit whatever early life the pitch offers on the fourth morning and then make inroads into the lower order.

India started brightly in the morning but were left wondering what would have been after McCullum was let off twice. Zaheer Khan struck two early blows, removing the in-form Kane Williamson (7) in the second over of the day and the well-set opener Hamish Rutherford (35), both caught behind by MS Dhoni. Mohammed Shami then sent back debutant left-hander Tom Latham (29) at the stroke of lunch.

When Ravindra Jadeja got rid of dangerous all-rounder Corey Anderson (2), who gave a simple return catch, it appeared India would wrap it up with over two days to spare.

However, McCullum, who scored 224 in the first Test at Auckland, had other plans. He was cautious, but Shami, who replaced Zaheer after his brilliant morning spell, induced a drive from the batsman close to lunch. But Virat Kohli, placed at a straight and short mid-on palmed away a straightforward chance. McCullum was on 9.

The batsman had progressed to 36 when Ishant Sharma, steaming in despite the wicket having eased out, could not hold on to one hit straight back at him. The Kiwi skipper had nicked one inches short of a diving Dhoni when the second catch was put down.

However, it was a brilliant innings for sheer character with his team in the dumps. He braved a shoulder problem and then cramp on his right hand. He reached his century with a six off Ishant after the new ball was taken. He crossed 5,000 runs in Test cricket.

Watling, who began his international career as an opener, gave excellent support to his captain and despite getting beaten a few times, stuck to the task.

India would still be satisfied having conceded only 228 runs in 90 overs, taking four wickets but have a task on hand on the fourth morning to ensure victory to square the series.

Zaheer Khan was the most successful bowler, taking three for 60.

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