Brendon McCullum will drag his aching body on to the Basin Reserve today in search of the ultimate captain's knock, another double century to try to somehow win a test series for his country.
New Zealand's skipper guided his team out of deep trouble against India with his ninth test century, his third in a watershed summer of test batting.
The job is far from complete, though, as McCullum and BJ Watling resume their unbroken 158-run stand with New Zealand leading by six runs, on 252-5 in their second innings with two days to play in the second and final test.
"We would probably need a double century to keep us in this game. If BJ can emulate what we did [yesterday] then it will be great to make some decisions about where the game will go, rather than trying to fight out of it," McCullum said last night after batting eight minutes short of six hours.
Glenn Turner, in the West Indies in 1972, is the only New Zealander to score two double centuries in the same series. McCullum set the platform for the Auckland victory with 224; now an even greater feat of endurance and concentration is required to bat out today on the same turf as Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones' epic 467-run stand against Sri Lanka in 1991.
"We had a test match to try and save, and then if we can put ourselves in a position who knows what we can achieve. It was hard work out there. India bowled brilliantly and at five for 90 things weren't looking so good."
McCullum battled through the summer with a painful back injury and needed regular medical attention to a sore left shoulder yesterday. He gritted his teeth and fought on, becoming the fourth New Zealander to top 5000 test runs after Stephen Fleming (7172), Martin Crowe (5444) and John Wright (5334).
Formerly an opener, McCullum has been in early all series amid a shaky top order. The third wicket fell at 30 and 11 in Auckland, then 26 on the day one green top. Yesterday's 52-3 was relative luxury.
It was an innings of two halves; solid defence, watchfulness and composure in his first half-century which spanned 146 deliveries with India's pacemen charging. McCullum had luck, too, which had deserted him at all seven coin tosses this tour. On nine he drove aerially to short mid-on but Virat Kohli couldn't grab the left-handed chance; then on 36 Ishant Sharma got in a tangle to a return chance.
Fortified and focused, McCullum opened the shoulders and his second 50 rattled up off 51 balls. His stand and deliver cover drives off Mohammed Shami were reminiscent of Nathan Astle in full flight.
Then on 94, having survived an lbw shout, he unleashed a full blooded pull shot off Sharma that cleared the rope at wide long-on. There is hardly a more imperious way to raise three figures and the Indians stood gobsmacked.
Watling arrived at a dire 94-5 after Corey Anderson got a leading edge and raised the prospect of a second three-day test in Wellington this summer.
The situation was tailormade for the former opener who fought bravely against South Africa's quicks last year and always puts a high price on his wicket.
He rarely gave the Indian bowlers a sniff and ground out his seventh half-century in 230 minutes, off 190 balls. The pair passed New Zealand's sixth-wicket record stand against India, 137 by Chris Cairns and Craig McMillan on the same ground 15 years ago.
It's still advantage India with Jimmy Neesham the only recognised batsman left and the second new ball just 19 overs old. India's bowling was excellent early but loosened up as MS Dhoni went from a packed slips cordon to an in-out field.
Zaheer Khan knocked the top off the innings and Sharma, who took 6-51 on Friday, still looked the most likely as he banged the ball in and beat the bat.
But his luck wasn't in like that of the New Zealand skipper.
Day three of the second test at the Basin Reserve, Wellington:
NEW ZEALAND First innings 192 Second innings (24-1 overnight) P Fulton lbw b Zaheer 1 H Rutherford c Dhoni b Zaheer 35 K Williamson c Dhoni b Zaheer 7 T Latham c Dhoni b Shami 29 B McCullum not out 114 C Anderson c and b Jadeja 2 B Watling not out 52 Extras (b2, lb6, nb4) 12 Total (for 5 wkts, 99 overs) 252 Fall: 1, 27, 52, 87, 94. Bowling: I Sharma 23-3-63-0 (4nb), Zaheer Khan 25-8-60-3, M Shami 25-4-72-1, R Jadeja 26-6-49-1.
INDIA First innings 438
- The Dominion Post
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