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The Report by Sidharth Monga
February 18, 2014
New Zealand 192 (Ishant 6-51, Shami 4-70) and 680 for 8 decl. (McCullum 302, Neesham 137*, Watling 124, Zaheer 5-170) drew with India 438 (Rahane 118, Dhawan 98, Dhoni 68, Southee 3-93) and 166 for 3 (Kohli 105*, Southee 2-50)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Brendon McCullum brought the whole of New Zealand to its feet in becoming the first New Zealander to 300 runs, New Zealand then possibly indulged for about half an hour after having fought hard for close to two days, following which Virat Kohli scored a century to make sure India didn't lose the Test they would have thought they had won two days ago. New Zealand won the series 1-0, and India ended their second successive tour without a win.
Given 67 overs to survive, India were in strife and would have lost their third wicket in the 13th over had Kohli walked or even shown signs of guilt after edging one through to BJ Watling, but he showed those niceties were not for him when there was a Test to be saved.
For about 46 minutes in the morning, the New Zealand economy came down to a standstill, the GDP took a beating and Basin Reserve cheered every single on as McCullum became the first New Zealander in 84 years of their Test cricket to register a triple-century. What made it sweeter was that he had come out in the first session of day three with an innings defeat and a squandered series lead imminent. By the fifth morning, though, the match had been saved, McCullum was 281, and it was time for a little indulgence, a phase of play where he would bask in the applause.
Before McCullum could get there, though, his partner Jimmy Neesham became only the seventh man to score a century on debut from No. 8. He had played a vital part previous evening in keeping McCullum together as his body and his concentration threatened to disintegrate after close to five sessions of intense grind. Neesham took all the pressure off by taking a majority of strike and the responsibility of run-getting.
Neesham began the day on 67, and continued to bat in a carefree manner. His driving into the leg side remained a feature of his batting, and he was no slouch when India pitched up too far outside off. His pace on the fifth morning again allowed McCullum to stay in the background, but McCullum went from 284 to 288, 289 to 293, and from 293 to 297 in boundaries. The anticipation arose as much with each of those shots as it did with good defensive ones. When, on 293, he edged one that fell short, the Basin heaved.
Off the second ball of the 199th over, McCullum took the single to go to 298, but that gave Neesham four balls to beat him to his landmark. Neesham was 94. And he pulled the third ball, and managed to lob the deep square leg who had completely misjudged this. Off the next ball, McCullum ran as hard as Neesham; the hundred was now done.
When McCullum steered the first ball of the next over between slips and gully, the triple had been achieved. Father Stu McCullum was in attendance, seemingly the whole of Wellington too, there was not a bum on seat, and the applause continued for about four minutes. It was an emotional moment, and McCullum could face only two balls as the only New Zealand triple-centurion. When he did edge Zaheer Khan, he didn't take Neesham along with him. Had he done so, they would have set India 380 in 77 overs.
Instead they batted on for 10 more overs to add 55 more runs, refusing to dangle a carrot. Perhaps all the hard work over the last two days was too much to ask to be risked, especially when they led in the series. Be it at it may, the extra time allowed Neesham enough time to register the highest score for a No. 8 debutant and to take New Zealand to their highest total ever.
India played out the four overs before lunch all right, but in the first two overs after the interval, Trent Boult and Tim Southee got the openers. Shikhar Dhawan fell padding up to a ball that would have clearly bounced over the stumps. Steve Davis went the other way soon as he let Kohli off when it could have become 31 for 3 with 55 overs to go. Dhawan would have sat inside the dressing room wondering where the generosity had disappeared when he padded up. Kohli was great at his play-acting, not looking behind, giving away no signs of anxiety, and scratching his guard again as he awaited a decision.
Southee created some excitement in the second hour of the middle session. He got Cheteshwar Pujara with hostile short-pitched bowling, making it difficult for the batsman to get his glove out of the way as he attacked the ribs. He produced two more opportunities before tea, but the wind carried a top-edged hook from Kolhi over long leg, and he himself dropped a return chance from Rohit Sharma eight minutes before tea.
As far as similarities with the great Kolkata Test go, this Test was following the script: India took seven wickets in that final session. Here, though, Kohli was the difference. He ended the New Zealand summer with a glorious session of sparkling shots all around the wicket, giving New Zealand no sniff. With an on-drive in the 49th over, Kohli became the 16th India batsman with three or more centuries outside Asia and Zimbabwe, and also made sure hands would be shaken at the end of the 52nd over, the earliest the teams could have agreed to a draw.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Sidharth Monga
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