New Zealand's greatest batsman Martin Crowe will be riding every run Brendon McCullum scores today, urging him to break his record and crack the elusive 300 barrier.
Twenty-three years since Crowe plundered 299 against Sri Lanka at the Basin Reserve, New Zealand's pained, exhausted skipper sits 19 runs from becoming the first Black Cap to 300.
New Zealand Cricket last night halved ticket prices to $20 for the fifth day of the second test against India, where history beckons at the Basin and all three results remain possible with the hosts leading by 325 runs. McCullum already has the longest test innings by a New Zealander, 726 minutes and counting as he went to stumps 281 not out and his team 571-6. Only Crowe remains in front of him on the New Zealand list of highest test innings.
"I've been rooting for him since he got to about 220. I thought in Auckland he might have a crack and I was hopeful that would be it buried, but he lost partners [scoring 224]. This time you could see no one was going anywhere and he had the day to do it. I just think bring it on, it's well overdue," Crowe said.
Crowe described McCullum's achievement as monumental, as he became the second New Zealander after Glenn Turner against the West Indies in 1972 to score two double-centuries in a series.
He wouldn't offer McCullum any advice for when he strides out at 11am today, with debutant Jimmy Neesham alongside, 33 short of a maiden test century. Crowe could remember little of his own experience in 1991 when anger was the over-riding feeling after being dismissed one run short.
"Whatever happens [today] it's still an epic performance but I would dearly love to see him get there."
McCullum resumed on 114, and the 2294 patrons who basked in the sun got a treat. He and the gritty gloveman BJ Watling (124) notched a world record sixth-wicket partnership of 352 as the captain played straight, defended stoutly and looked a man on a mission. He occasionally charged Ravi Jadeja's spin but was in control. Visiting skipper MS Dhoni went defensive, fast, and even brought himself on to bowl a solitary over.
McCullum was on one knee at most breaks in play, guzzling energy drinks, popping the occasional pill and receiving massages to his aching lower back, his nervous father Stu watching from the terraces. When McCullum departed the Basin an hour after stumps he walked like an 80-year-old but remained chipper and chirpy, a bruise on his right arm from a nasty Zaheer Khan lifter.
After offering two early chances on Sunday, McCullum didn't give India's bowlers a look in as the milestones ticked over and he moved up the charts; past familiar surnames like Sutcliffe, Turner, Dowling, Fleming. Late in the day he clocked the longest innings by a New Zealander, topping Turner's 704-minute epic in Georgetown, then passed his business partner Fleming's 274 not out. The pair are New Zealand's only three-time test double-centurions, with all McCullum's against India.
"I am a little bit tired actually. The last hour was a bit of a daze 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," McCullum said.
Strangely, McCullum wouldn't confirm he would bat on today but that seems a formality.
How long New Zealand bat for then becomes the big question. At 1-0 up in the series they owe India nothing and the tourists will be desperate for an outside chance to level it.
McCullum said he would still like to push for a win. The only danger period for New Zealand's batsmen was from Zaheer and Mohammed Shami with the third new ball yesterday, when Watling was finally trapped lbw. New Zealand will try to build their lead well over 400 before thinking about declaring.
"We worked really hard to get back into this contest and we have to look at whether we push on for a test win or look to consolidate the lead, knowing how far out of the game we were."
- © Fairfax NZ News