McCullum inch towards retirement as Aussies scent victory against NZ
Brendon McCullum drew the curtain on his illustrious batting career as a typically pugnacious but short-lived innings Monday was unable to loosen Australia’s firm grip on the second Test in Christchurch on Monday.
On an emotional day when players and fans marked the fifth anniversary of the devastating Christchurch earthquake, the captain’s departure in his 101st and final Test left New Zealand staring down the barrel.
At the end of the third day New Zealand were 121-4, needing a further 14 to make Australia bat again and with hopes receding of a series-levelling victory.
McCullum arrived for his farewell innings at 72-3 but after 25 off 27 deliveries, the man who hit the fastest ever Test century in the first innings was out.
His second-to-last whack sent Josh Hazlewood for a record-extending 107th six over square leg. But when he danced down the wicket for a repeat performance off the next ball he was caught by David Warner.
After Australian captain Steve Smith ran over to shake McCullum’s hand and acknowledge the New Zealand captain’s contribution to the game, he was gone for the last time.
It had been a memorable Test for McCullum with a rollicking 145 in the first innings, reaching his century in a record 54 balls, when he defied the accepted rules of cricket by lashing out on a seaming wicket.
After that innings he said what mattered most was winning the Test, but that now seems unlikely.
A magic spell from James Pattinson when he ripped through New Zealand’s top order gave Australia a glimpse of victory and a return to the number one world ranking.
Kane Williamson was not out 45 at stumps with Corey Anderson on nine.
The Australians posted a formidable 505 in their first innings for a 135-run lead and New Zealand’s attempt to save the Test and started disastrously when Martin Guptill was caught behind off Pattinson for nought.
The Pattinson and gloveman Peter Nevill partnership combined again to dismiss Tom Latham with the young opener making a start but unable to kick on.
Latham reached 33 and despite having time on his side he could not resist dabbing at a ball heading down the leg side and it brushed his glove on the way through to Nevill.
Henry Nicholls made two before he edged a full delivery from Pattinson through to the safe hands of Smith at second slip.
A career-best six for 106 by Neil Wagner helped engineer an abrupt end to the Australian innings after they reached 464-5 and lost their last five wickets for 41 in 12 overs.
On a pitch offering little for the bowlers, Wagner fired up New Zealand when he removed Australia’s batting goliath Adam Voges in the second over after lunch.
Voges, backing up from a double century in the first innings, had looked in total control until his timing deserted him in an attempt to pull Wagner to the boundary and a leaping Latham grasped the ball at square leg.
The breakthrough came as a relief to McCullum who went through seven bowlers, including himself, as he searched for the breakthrough in the first session of the day.
It was only the eighth time in 12 years of Test cricket he has bowled, sending down four overs for three runs.
Fans and players, wearing black armbands, also paused at 12:51 pm, the exact time the 2011 earthquake struck, for a minute’s silence for the 185 victims of a disaster which destroyed much of Christchurch city centre.