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2nd Test: McCullum forces Indian bowling into hapless surrender

Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum’s record-breaking knock and stand with Watling runs India pacers to the ground on a flat pitch and marks a stunning Test turnaround for the hosts.

india Updated: Feb 18, 2014 04:45 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times
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The walls in the grandstand building at the Basin Reserve ground are decorated with action photographs, many of them from famous Tests played at the picturesque venue. One wall however is reserved for a single large frame containing a scroll of honour and pictures of the then world record partnership between Kiwi legend Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones, at the ground against Sri Lanka in 1991.

Their 467-run third wicket association has subsequently been surpassed twice, by Sri Lanka batsmen. The scroll lists record partnerships, for New Zealand and overall, with Crowe and Jones getting the pride of place. The collage of newspaper reports at the bottom is a collection of screaming headlines extolling Crowe’s achievement – he registered New Zealand’s highest individual score of 299 during that effort.

Crowe was all elegance. Brendon McCullum is more demolishion man than someone who wears out attacks, or expected to breaks records in the longest format. But on a quiet Monday, the New Zealand skipper made a loud statement for Test cricket and his class while playing one of the great innings ever played by a Kiwi batsman, under massive pressure. It turned a fight for survival into a possible push for triumph.

At the close, his undefeated 281 was within touching distance of New Zealand’s first triple century. It is already the longest innings played by a Kiwi batsman in terms of time spent. And his 352-run partnership with BJ Watling (124) is a world record for the sixth wicket. The Kiwi ‘keeper himself played a gem of an innings and only India’s momentary energy lift provided by the third new ball after tea could break the stand.

Hopes battered
Coming into the fourth morning in the second Test, MS Dhoni and Co had hopes of pushing for victory. At the end of the day, they were a picture of helplessness as McCullum went past his highest Test score. It was not aggression but the amazing focus and temperament of the 32-year-old that left India floundering on a flat pitch.

The Indian fans fell quiet, the drums played all through Sunday were gone. Replacing them was the rhythmic applause of the Kiwi fans, for every run and announcements of records tumbling.

For India, it was the realisation of having thrown away the chance of a memorable victory. Twice dropping McCullum – Virat when he was on 9 and Ishant on 36 – either side of lunch on day three has now left them vulnerable to crumbling under pressure on the final day. That would complete a miserable tour without a single victory. The lead at stumps was an imposing 325 with debutant James Neesham inflicting more punishment.

McCullum and Watling had defied India on Sunday. And India’s pacers had little extra to offer beyond plugging away. Dhoni used attacking and defensive fields in turn, but neither batsman ever got too greedy. The Kiwi skipper needed attention, especially for a dodgy back, but there was no sign he was finished.

Even on a flat pitch, the return of one wicket showed India ran out of ideas, simply waiting for something to give. That did only after 123 overs when Shami trapped Watling leg before with the second delivery after the new ball was taken. It was a day where India’s credentials as a power playing overseas suffered a blow.

For McCullum, who slowed down in the final overs, there is plenty of space in that wall for a new scroll of honour and collage of newspaper headlines.

First Published: Feb 17, 2014 14:24 IST