New Zealand v India, 2nd Test, Wellington, 3rd day February 16, 2014

India second-best against resolute McCullum

Building on the chances he got in the field, Brendon McCullum scored his toughest hundred yet, ensuring India's substantial lead was wiped off, in spite of some diligent play
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For the second time in as many Tests, India were left applauding a Brendon McCullum century. MS Dhoni walked to the edge of the boundary at the end of the day's play, waited for McCullum, who was being congratulated by several India players, and clasped his counterpart's hand. You can talk all you want about strategies and execution and momentum. At times, you just have to admit that you threw everything you had at the opposition, and they still came out on top. In the absence of Ross Taylor, it was McCullum who extended New Zealand's glorious summer by another day.

In Auckland, McCullum was helped by India bowlers, who lost their lines and lengths after having New Zealand at 30 for 3. The only assistance he had in Wellington was the two dropped catches. He got nothing else from India. They tried to force him into playing a rash stroke by bowling restricting lines to leg-side fields. McCullum defended, without giving them a chance. They tried to force him into playing a rash stroke by bowling teasing lines to an open off-side field, especially with the second new ball. McCullum attacked, without giving them a chance.

Ravindra Jadeja was at New Zealand all day, doing the job he had failed to do in the first Test. His 26 overs went for 120 in the first innings in Auckland. He conceded 49 runs in 26 overs this time. He choked McCullum and BJ Watling with a leg-side field and a line from over the stumps. Both batsmen defended, and then defended some more. On the rare occasion that Jadeja was too short or too full, they made sure he was taken for boundaries. There was nothing in the pitch for the spinner, and New Zealand ensured they were not going to create anything for him on their own.

Jadeja's run squeeze meant India's fast bowlers had more reason to come hard, which they did. Zaheer Khan has been largely accurate with his lines in this series, but the intensity had been palpably lacking. He made up for it with an eight-over opening spell that yielded two wickets. He never let McCullum and Watling feel they were in. Over the stumps. Round the stumps. Moving midwicket back, moving square leg in. Seaming it in, seaming it out. It was a terrific display from the bowler. The batsmen needed luck to survive Zaheer today. They needed the ball to beat that outside edge, for there were plenty they were not going to middle. You could argue that McCullum and Watling deserved that luck for the way they denied themselves.

Mohammed Shami could have tested New Zealand more had he been more consistent. He is a bowler who will produce an unplayable one every now and then, and he did that today as well. However, he also dropped it short on occasion and when he did, McCullum and Watling were around to take toll.

Ishant Sharma had been awkward to handle in the first innings, and he made the ball kick and seam in again. McCullum and Watling were hit on the pads several times. Even after playing 195 balls and batting on 94, McCullum missed and took one on the leg off Ishant. Just when you were pondering over the replay with the ball-tracker, he walloped the next one for six and was raising his bat for another hundred.

"Him going from 94 to 100 with a six certainly caught me by surprise," said Bob Carter, the New Zealand batting coach. "Suddenly I was sitting down thinking about the ball that had just beaten him. All of a sudden he was hitting it for six."

What more could India have done against McCullum? Dhoni had men in catching positions through the day. Slips, gully, short mid-on, short midwicket, short leg. He tried in-and-out fields. He tried reducing and increasing the number of slips. He left third man vacant. He brought point in, he sent him back. He left cover and extra cover vacant with the second new ball. He still kept going with his specialist bowlers, not trying any part-timer.

But here was the king of indulgence starving himself, gorging in between, then returning to starve again. Alongside was a sidekick in perpetual hibernation. It was the day McCullum batted nearly six hours, and yet made only 114, despite going almost run a ball from fifty to hundred. It was a day to come out second-best despite giving it all. It was a day to hold a hand out to your opponent and say: "Well played, captain."

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on February 17, 2014, 21:31 GMT

    @Imran Haider , pathetic Indian bowling itself is the biggest assistance that even a mediocre batsman from even Afghanistan would hit triple century so what is so great about Mcullum's innings? That's how India's defective bowling machine has given every team all the chances to create records including this Kiwi team as once said by the great Sunil Gavaskar " Making runs against India is easiest for any team while facing lethal bowlers and scoring runs is what we have to do to win the matches"

  • satchander on February 16, 2014, 21:33 GMT

    @ thozar: We are all worried about India even when NZ are 6 ahead with 5 wickets in hand because of India's perennial problem of losing or drawing matches from winning positions...We just don't have bowlers who are ruthless enough to dismantle sides when they are in position such as 94/5 !!!!! Hope that answers your question ....

  • satchander on February 16, 2014, 21:29 GMT

    @Jimmyvida : Dude, that was not a catch for Dhoni...It went on 1 bounce to him and technically not a chance...much as I hate Dhoni as a test captain for losing 10 out of last 11 matches, I would not want to just go on and say he even dropped McCullum when actually he did not...

  • cric_frank on February 16, 2014, 19:47 GMT

    Mr.Purohit- Can you please point the blame to Captain MSD who can own 'How to lose/draw games from winning emphatic positions-101'. This player is responsible for destroying this team with his negativity,inferiority complex and pathetically defensive tactics.When the same group can nip out NZ for 190 in the 1st inns,its hard to believe their ability or skills in the 2nd inns in terms of replicating performances.Awful catching,lethargic fielding and atrocious captaincy are the reasons for this lame slip-up yet again.Finally,Ishant Sharma and Kohli must be made to run 20 laps around the ground & cut their fees by 50% for their casual,lousy mistake of dropping MC.

  • harmske on February 16, 2014, 18:10 GMT

    @thozar - well said! nz are a solid team at home and our recent home record is pretty good. a decent opening pair and perhaps a little more squad depth in batting and we're a complete package at home. away form probably needs a lot more work.

  • Leggie on February 16, 2014, 17:33 GMT

    @AshwinPandey: playing Steyn in the nets or scoring tons of runs in the IPL mean nothing when one enters into a Test match. It's a completely different ball game with a completely different mindset. In my view at least, IPL comes at a wrong time... does not provide our team members to learn batting or bowling for a long period of time playing the game of patience and tightening their technique. If you look at some of the Indian greats starting with Bedi, Gavaskar, Kapil, Sachin, Dravid, Sourav, Kumble and most recently Zaheer khan... they all spent a considerable amount of time in the English county honing their skills. The current crop of players are severely challenged for time, and with IPL played in the true Indian summer, I'm sure it's going to leave many of them tired and exhausted by the end of the season. T20 is like a good dessert and not a main course. Sadly, people are being fed with an overdose of desserts and surely over a period of time are going to fall sick.

  • espncricinfomobile on February 16, 2014, 16:02 GMT

    If BM scores another double century than Indian hopes to win overseas test will remain only a dream which they can never turn into reality. ... I wish NZ play out all three sessions today

  • jimmyvida on February 16, 2014, 16:02 GMT

    Did someone miss Dhoni's dropping Brendon. Everybody says Dhoni likes to stay far to catch balls down at his ankle. So why couldn't he catch Brendon? That was as simple a catch as you would expect behind the wicket. Did anybody see the kind of catches Watling took to dismiss Indian batsmen, even to dismiss Dhoni?

  • android_user on February 16, 2014, 15:57 GMT

    Honestly speaking i expected more of IND . NZ are not a side to get beaten by

  • dummy4fb on February 16, 2014, 15:39 GMT

    Yes it was disappointing to see the bowlers time and again let the batsman off the hook and which shows that Indian bowlers lack intelligence. When you know a batsman is troubled by a certain delivery why not try again in the same spot, but Indian bowlers just did the opposite and then bowl a short pitch ball for the batsman to whack easily. Also time and again Dhoni lets the opposition away from trouble by inexplicably field placements and over bowling Jadeja. He should have changed Jadeja as soon as he had the danger man,Anderson, out and attacked the new batsman but continued with Jadeja to the team's disadvantage. Its is easy for a new batsman,Watling, to play spin then a fast bowler who has gotten him so many times in the series and his confidence is low. Dhoni must have thought oh I got them pinned down with Jadeja's bowling and can get more, but they decided that they had 3 days of Test match left to play and dropped anchor. Not smart enough, Dhoni, you cant do that and win.

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