McCullum scores double, Watling 100

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 15:10 17/02/2014
McCullum the man
McCullum becomes the first New Zealander to score a Test Match triple century.
Brendon McCullum
Reuters
MCCULLUM SOLID: The Black Caps have extended their lead over India in the first hour and half of play in Wellington.

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Brendon McCullum's second double century in consecutive tests, combined with staunch support from BJ Watling, has given New Zealand a fighting chance in the second cricket test against India at the Basin Reserve.

McCullum passed 200 with a four off Zaheer Khan.

An earlier four off Khan had brought McCullum to 199 before an excruciatingly-timed drinks break.

The pair's unbeaten partnership of more than 300 runs has lasted more than 105 overs.

A short time ago New Zealand led by 157 runs with 5 wickets remaining.

Watling's century surely takes the prize for best supporting role. On 99, Watling hit a four off Khan to move to 103 in the 138th over. Watling scored his 100 off 297 balls.

The pair etched their names further into New Zealand cricket's record books, with more magnificent batting at the Basin Reserve this morning.

The Black Caps were 347 for five at lunch, with five sessions left to play in this test match.

McCullum went to the interval unbeaten on 169 and Watling 90 not out, having registered the second-highest second innings partnership in New Zealand test history along the way.

Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones, with 467 against Sri Lanka here at the Basin in 1991, still lead the way. But McCullum and Watling have so far added 253 for the sixth-wicket and are now in sight of New Zealand's record partnership for any wicket against India.

Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder, at Napier in 2009 currently enjoy that distinction.

It was again test match batting of the highest order from McCullum and Watling, mixing stout defence with an ability to cash in on anything loose.

They scored 95 runs in 28 overs this morning, having been much more subdued yesterday.

India also have to shoulder some responsibility for New Zealand's rapid progress this morning.

It took captain MS Dhoni barely two overs to go defensive, especially when McCullum was on strike. In real terms, the Black Caps were still basically five for 20 and yet there were no slips in place for the New Zealand skipper, with players instead placed in a ring of run-saving positions.

When you're in a dominant position like India was, and time and runs still weren't an issue, then it behoves you to attack. Boring batsmen out might be the default setting Indian captains return to in home conditions, but it won't wash here.

Dhoni's aims, whatever they were, weren't aided by his bowlers either.

Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami all looked likely at different times, but would then spear a ball down leg side or serve up a wide half-volley.

That allowed McCullum and Watling to tick the scoring over at a good rate and begin building something of a lead.

Given he'd batted just short of six hours, and appeared in pain for a lot of it, McCullum must've been a bit ginger when the morning began.

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Attacking fields and persistent bowling surely would've made things tricky for him in the first hour or so. But once he'd felt the ball in the middle of his bat a couple of times McCullum looked a lot more free in his movements.

Grabbing the initiative in any day of cricket is critical and India gave it away without even a tussle.

The fields to Watling were generally more attacking, but that couldn't stop him tucking and nudging balls away with freedom.

This game is still India's to lose. But they risk defeat becoming an unnecessary possibility by simply sitting and waiting for McCullum and Watling to give their wickets away.

- Fairfax Media

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