New Zealand v West Indies, 1st Test, Dunedin, 5th day December 7, 2013

McCullum woe as New Zealand denied again


A year to the day since Brendon McCullum was unveiled as New Zealand captain and he still does not have a Test victory to his name. For the second consecutive home Test he had been denied what appeared certain spoils. No wonder he looked shattered.

In Auckland it was down to Matt Prior (and how his fortunes have changed since) and this time it was a combination of West Indian resilience and the fickle Dunedin weather. For 14 sessions it had been the best weather for a Test here that many locals could remember. The fifth day's rain, however, should not shift the focus from the fact that without Darren Bravo's nine-and-a-half hours at the crease, and Darren Sammy's gritty 80, this Test would have been done and dusted long before the weather turned. West Indies almost deserved the little bit of help.

Although New Zealand stumbled to 44 for 4 against Shane Shillingford, the partnership between Ross Taylor and Corey Anderson had calmed nerves, bringing the target down to 33 as the rain began to threaten before tea. The radar showed it was coming - although not in the strength that developed after the break - but there was no great urgency from either batsman and no major concern when tea was taken five minutes early at 3.05pm. The players did not return despite brief optimism. The ground staff attempted to remove the covers while full of water, to hasten a restart, but they were too heavy to lift. Anyway, a few moments later the rain was back.

"You are obviously judged by your results," McCullum said after the game. "When you've not won a Test since I've taken over it frustrates you, but we did everything we could to win this Test match and I believe we'd have won if it hadn't rained. We've had some lows during the time as well, but I firmly believe we are performing pretty well in Test cricket and sooner or later the wins will come. We just have to keep persevering and if we get the odd slice of luck go our way then those results will follow."

Having lost a clump of early wickets, New Zealand were clearly uncertain about having a dip before tea, even though Taylor and Anderson had settled. Anderson clubbed the occasional boundary, but Taylor was content to largely tap his way along. There are plenty of Otago players in the dressing room so you would have thought no lack of local knowledge about the potential for the rain to emerge. Saturday had always been the most uncertain day of the Test weather-wise.

"It's not often you get through five clear days of sunshine in Dunedin," McCullum said wryly. "We never really got ourselves in a position in that chase to really put the hammer down. We had a feeling it was going to rain at some point but weather watching is never a great strategy when you're trying to set up a chase."

New Zealand will have to be honest with themselves, though. They had the chance to wrap up this match much earlier; the return catch offered by Bravo on 82 was especially costly but on the final day Peter Fulton, despite his height, could only palm a ball over his head when Tino Best lofted Ish Sodhi. He only batted four more overs, but how New Zealand would have loved those four overs to bat.

Then there was the way they began the chase. They are not a team used to winning and it showed, a little like at Lord's earlier in the year when they could not convert a promising position. Hamish Rutherford shot was especially poor considering the long-on fielder had been pushed back. When McCullum skied his sweep it meant they had to rebuild, and it cost them vital time. A target of 112, with anything like a solid base, should have been reachable in 30 overs.

"We just wanted to try and be positive and play our natural games in a chase of that size," he said. "A couple of us played some shots that were too far on the aggressive side for what was needed at that time."

As in Auckland, so much impressive cricket had come to nothing. The return to form of McCullum was one of the significant outcomes of the Test and he admitted it was a weight off his shoulders even though fitness concerns persist.

"I don't think I've played under that much media or public scrutiny throughout my career," he said. "To be able to come out the other side of that and score a hundred under pretty tough external pressure, but also internal pressure from an injury point of view, was reliving more so than pleasing.

"Still it was very disappointing I wasn't able to be there at the end today. Sometimes you make poor decisions in clutch moments and if I had that moment back I would. But overall it's a step in the right direction and hopefully I can eradicate a few of those errors that crop up."

A few minutes earlier, as the rain momentarily abated to raise brief hopes of a resumption, the PA system at the ground had played the Johnny Nash song, I Can See Clearly Now with the lyrics: "It's gonna be a bright, bright, bright, bright sun-shiny day." It's doubtful whether McCullum would have seen the funny side of it.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 13, 2013, 0:00 GMT

    @22many... What? Brendan got out as he foresaw the rain. Firstly, who knows what you said and when, you are merely claiming that in hindsight and I see no reason to believe you. Secondly, for balance, McCullum (who has a bad back and battles injury yet has played 80 consecutive tests without missing a single one from the start of his test playing career) bats lower down the order due to him being the keeper when shifted. MCCullum got 112 and not many... divide that by 2 you get 60... well above his average... he scored a century. Did Taylor bat better? Of course, he scored 217* (joining Brendan in 200 club) & is in the best run of form of his career simply due to putting away the onside slog... a shot that he used to play all the time and a shot that indicates the mental fragility he has often shown throughout his career. Yes, Taylor batted better and may even be a better batsman full stop - who ever said different? But McCullum is a FAR better Captain. You provide zero proof otherwise

  • Scott on December 10, 2013, 19:41 GMT

    Seems like I'm having to defend myself rather than my argument which is a shame. People might like coming on these forums to shout their support, they're entitled to. I'm not interested in platitudes but instead am motivated by debating cricket issues. I enjoy trawling through statistics and I like proposing reasoned alternative points of view. You should note that I stick to my points rather than switching for what the argument de jour e.g. I've never criticised either Eden Park or the Oval regarding enforcing/not enforcing the follow-on (don't think it mattered). McCullum's innings made me think how much I used to enjoy watching that shot making but how much I no longer believe he can produce it anytime other than when the batting is unchallenging. On his appearance, it's because to me he presents as contrived and disengenuous and more concerned with how people see him rather than his performances.

  • brendan on December 10, 2013, 8:14 GMT

    @ shane Yeah totally agree. He has a chance to score some massive runs this summer against a couple of pretty weak pace attacks so here's hoping.

    I would hope our other batsmen would have a little bit more intelligence than to blindly follow McCullums lead at times also...

    @ SDCLFC just find it funny how you've got such a bee in your bonnet over McCullum, and continue to boil down our teams performance (and the oppositions) over the course of 5 days to just one player. Plus the continual references to his appearance which are a little weird. Saw your comment on the Reason article, what a load of absolute tripe. For someone who was (quite rightly) so scathing of his inablity to make a century in so long there wasn't a hint of credit given. As Bishop said during commentary re his innings "low-risk, very controlled aggression" Get the feeling people like yourself would rather see the team fail so they can continue to stick the boot into McCullum, which is a little sad.

  • Scott on December 9, 2013, 19:46 GMT

    And? Is 3 years and 25 tests not a significant enough time period. His 225 is standing out as more and more of an outlier, an anomaly, than anything else. If it's removed it shows a better representation of what we can expect from McCullum as a batsmen. His average of 33 as a captain is equally not good enough, especially not for someone with his run scoring ability. I let your earlier comment go about the pitch at Hobart but you ignore the fact that Taylor defended a measly target against Australia that included a rampant David Warner playing an innings that far outweighed in quality and skill that played by Matt Prior on Eden Park (as people are want to point to the skill of Matt Prior's batting as a reason we did not win there).

  • Shane on December 9, 2013, 13:44 GMT

    @weasel_zapper - yes, it's a fair point that Taylor is probably entering the peak of his career right now, captaincy or not. I expect to see his average climbing for the next few years. And look, the captaincy thing is done and dusted, I accept that - I just think that, when people criticise Taylor's captaincy, it's important to remember that he very much led from the front, and indeed had some great results during his short stint.

  • brendan on December 9, 2013, 13:20 GMT

    @ shane how would you read it if he goes on to score even more under McCullum? just an anomaly to the whole the captain sets the tone for the whole team deal? at the moment its a pretty healthy 60 odd.

    @ SDCLFC true to form dating your stats back to the test after he had his highest score? perhaps his specialist batsmen average of 37, or indeed his average as captain of 33 would be a far more objective way to look at it.

  • Shane on December 9, 2013, 11:23 GMT

    @Juvin Liji - if we are going to talk averages, we'd be remiss not to mention the fact that Taylor's average jumps from being already the highest in the team by far, up to an even higher 49. Captaincy suited him because he scored a bucketload of runs - that's the most valuable thing a captain can do.

    @SocttMcKenzie - I don't agree about our bowlers, we have the most exciting batch I've seen in my time watching the team. And in fact, they did take 20 wickets.

    Look, NZ did everything right and in the end were denied by rain. Lots of positives out of this match even if we didn't get the result, but you can't control the weather. Imagine the abuse the team would have copped if they'd gone and smashed it around and been bowled out. I mean they rack up 600, come as close to victory as they did, only to be denied by rain, and people still criticise them relentlessly? That suggests those people will criticise them no matter what they do.

  • paul on December 9, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    I tend to look at cricket a little differently these days when I am pitting players against each other. Just a thought. I go back to the end of day one when Taylor and McCullum were in full flight. Walking off I took a bet with myself about which one of these two guys would kick on the next day.A new innings so to speak .McCullum back in his old position as opener ,Taylor in new a position. My money was on Taylor...I think BMac added three and was out to a shot he was getting out to many times when the ball did a bit...hence his move south in the batting order. So when we break it down, McCullum had three innings in that test.100 n o first day, 3 the next day and very few in his final innings..what did we get?..approx. his average .Taylor 100 day one ,100 day two and what ever day three..all not out. What conclusion did I come to...McCullum has a very short concentration span which is why I believe his future is in the shorter forms of the game only. He is not a test capt...never was.

  • Ian on December 9, 2013, 4:17 GMT

    Wow, that was really terrible captaincy by McCullum, I don't think we will ever get a win with McCullum as captain, he can't even get the job done from an extremely dominant position and it's not the first time. NZC reaps what it has sowed. Pathetic, I stopped watching when we had a 400 lead and McCullum was setting defensive fields, I'll start watching tests again when the side isn't lead by a T20 specialist.

  • David on December 9, 2013, 3:27 GMT

    @hugh Unless you meant Bruce Martin? He bowled poorly both in England and then in BD and lost his place to the younger (and I think more promising) Sodhi.

  • No featured comments at the moment.