McCullum grinds out 281 to close in on NZ record

February 18, 2014 - 12:37:49 am

Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni pats the back of New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum at the end of day four of the second and final Test between the two sides in Wellington yesterday. McCullum smashed his second successive Test double century and ended the day at 281 not out, just 18 runs short of New Zealand’s highest Test score of 299 by Martin Crowe. BELOW: McCullum walks off at the end of the fourth day’s play.

WELLINGTON: An epic double century by Brendon McCullum and a world record-breaking stand with BJ Watling carried New Zealand from the brink of defeat to the edge of a series-saving result against India yesterday.

McCullum steered New Zealand to 571-6 at stumps on the fourth day of the second Test at Wellington’s Basin Reserve, leading India by 325 with one day remaining of the two-Test series. 

The captain, battling back, leg and shoulder injuries and having been in the middle for nearly 12 hours, was unbeaten on 281 with Jimmy Neesham on 67.

“The last hour was a bit of a daze in all honesty and I was just trying to get through. Thankfully Neesh was playing some shots and ticking the board over because I was just hanging in there if I’m brutally honest,” said a tired McCullum, unsure how he would play out the final day.

“We are obviously 1-0 up in the series and have worked really hard to get back into this contest and the decision we have to look at is if we look to push on for a Test win or if we look to consolidate the lead.

“Those are the decisions we have to mull over overnight and they were decisions we didn’t have a couple of days ago.”

It was a remarkable comeback after New Zealand were reeling in their second innings at 94-5 on Sunday, against the world number two Test team. 

Indian batsman Shikhar Dhawan said his team had plans in place but McCullum and Watling wrested control away from them.

“McCullum and the other batsman batted beautifully and they respected the good balls and they didn’t give us any opportunity all day,” he said.

“We came with the mindset we were going to get them all out and bat, chase whatever the target, but it didn’t go our way.”

The McCullum-Watling partnership lasted 123 overs with a low-risk approach forcing Mahendra Singh Dhoni to set run-saving rather than attacking fields. 

As sensibly as McCullum batted, there was enough of his innate boldness to tick off each 50 with a thundering stroke -- sixes to reach 100 and 250 and fours to pass 50, 150 and 200. 

The exceptional partnership was broken when the new ball was taken just after tea and Watling fell lbw to Mohammed Shami for a career-best 124 after setting a world-record sixth-wicket stand of 352 with McCullum. 

The previous record was 351 set for Sri Lanka by Mahela Jayawardene and Prasanna Jayawardene against India in 2009. 

New Zealand’s sixth and seventh wickets have added 477 runs in this innings - this is the highest added by the two wickets in an innings in Tests.

It was also the third-best New Zealand stand for any wicket, while McCullum joins Glenn Turner as the only New Zealanders to score two double-centuries in the same series. Turner achieved his feat in the West Indies in 1972. 

McCullum, who scored 224 to set up New Zealand’s 40-run victory in the first Test, and made 225 against India at Hyderabad in 2010, equalled Stephen Fleming as only the second New Zealander to score three career double centuries. 

McCullum has faced 525 deliveries in his marathon innings. This is now the most deliveries faced in an innings by a batsman in Tests in New Zealand, beating the 524 balls faced by England’s Clive Radley against the hosts at the Eden Park in 1977-78.

He finished day four 19 runs short of becoming the first New Zealander to score 300, with the current record standing as Martin Crowe’s 299 against Sri Lanka on the same ground in 1991.

McCullum said when the New Zealand team was announced, all-rounder Neesham was said to be making his Test debut for his bowling skills, but it was his batting that proved most valuable. 

Coming in at the fall of Watling’s wicket and with India fired up with the new ball, he offered two sharp chances to the slips cordon before building a 125-run stand with McCullum. AFP

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