New Zealand v Australia, 1st Test, Wellington, 4th day March 22, 2010

McCullum survives the storm as hosts eye safety

When Brendon McCullum's batting and whirlwind are mentioned in the same sentence it's usually evidence of a Twenty20 or one-day blitz. This time he braved the gale-force conditions and at stumps was on the verge of a determined century. Along with his captain, McCullum dragged New Zealand back into the match with as much obstinacy as the wind that hauled a groundsman several metres while he clung on to the blowing away covers.

The conditions made it difficult for Australia's bowlers but it wasn't exactly easy for the batsmen either, other than hitting with the north-westerly to the Scoreboard End. There were distractions including occasional dust gusts, plastic bags blowing across the ground and the stop-start nature due to bad-light delays.

McCullum took it all in his stride. At 5pm, when play resumed after an 80-minute break, he hooked the first ball from Mitchell Johnson off his eyebrows with perfect timing. Earlier, he had played the same shot and struck it so well that it left the ground and had to be sought on nearby Rugby Street.

That sort of stroke is typical McCullum but it was his concentration that was most impressive on the fourth day in Wellington. He had thrown his wicket away in the first innings with a messy, top-edged pull when resilience was required and he was not about to make the same mistake twice in one game.

He strode to the crease in the morning with Daniel Vettori, a 115-run deficit in their way, and proceeded to bat through the whole day. By the time the final bad-light reading came from the umpires, McCullum was on 94 and had given New Zealand a 67-run advantage and a realistic chance of salvaging the Test.

Tim McIntosh, who made 83 on the third day, said McCullum did not appear nervous at going to bed in the nineties. "I don't think he was actually, he's just being himself and hoping to get out there," McIntosh said. "It's always frustrating when you're on and off the park, with the light the way it was and all that, but I think he dealt with it pretty well. He's playing a really mature innings and a good gutsy one at that.

"We've given ourselves a good chance to save the Test and maybe even get into a position where we can put them under pressure to possibly even win the Test. There's been a few [loose] dismissals in a similar sort of fashion, so we've got some work to do for the next Test. A bit of an example was shown and I think the way Dan and Baz [McCullum] batted is setting a good example for the rest of the innings."

McCullum played his shots when he had the chance and was especially strong on the cut, while also ticking the scoreboard over with good running. He had moments of fortune, like when Brad Haddin missed a sharp stumping chance when he was on 48, but never did his desire to attack overwhelm him.

For much of his innings he had the benefit of batting with Vettori, whose fighting qualities are unquestionable. McCullum was until recently the vice-captain and the responsible way that he and Vettori led their team by example was notable.

Their 126-run partnership shortened the odds of a draw and has even given New Zealand the faintest glimmer of hope for a victory. The Australians know McCullum can bat like a storm, as they saw in his Twenty20 hundred three weeks ago. Now they know he can also survive one.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Blair on March 23, 2010, 1:10 GMT

    An excellent innings by McCullum, contrary to what Gupta.Anka says below it didn't involve much luck at all, really. As NEUTRAL_Fan points out, McCullum is growing and maturing as a player, a couple of years ago he would have blasted his way to a quick-fire 30 or 40 and then thrown it all away with a silly shot, but he showed grit and determination to hang in there and bat for a long time. I am sure he will push his average up from where it currently sits in the mid 30s to above 40 before much longer, and he already has 5 test centuries, not bad for a keeper! He, along with Vettori and Ross Taylor must be about the only Black Cap players the Australians are genuinely respectful/wary of, and that along says something.

  • giovaughn on March 23, 2010, 0:44 GMT

    congrats brendon its always pleases me when sum1 gives the aussies sum stick show em the''re not all they are hyped up 2 be

  • Faz on March 23, 2010, 0:14 GMT

    Well Prashant, I do agree Sachin is a great batsman. But don't you think the dead tracks in subcontinent are the reasons for the high averages most players have. Do you really think MS Dhoni is technically similar to Sachin, absolutely not but even he can manage 100s on Indian tracks. Now another example for you, if the tracks have even a little pace we saw recently what Dale Steyn did.

  • Prashant on March 22, 2010, 19:57 GMT

    Mr.Dayton if you are talking abt Indian players then let me remind you they dont have to prove you anything.They have scored runs in NZ,Aus,Eng.We saved a test match in NZ from the jaws of defeat courtesy to the reslient batting of Gambhir and Laxman.Sachin scored a 150 there.He scored 163* in NZ.Tell me about any other current gen player who has scored more than 150 in NZ,Aus,Eng in an ODI.Its not abt the average but abt the batting skills and Indian players are good at it and Try to Accept this fact.The sooner you do it the better it is for you.

  • Tricky on March 22, 2010, 18:33 GMT

    Every innings has an element of luck to it. I don't know if Gupta watched the game but McCullum played some great shots, including hitting Johnson out of the park. The Kiwis are still there on the fifth day due to some dogged batting from McIntosh, Vettori and McCullum. That alone is a minor victory. The Kiwis may not be the most talented but they have some fight in them!

  • Dre on March 22, 2010, 18:27 GMT

    I think McCallum has grown as a test player. Good players create their own luck! It shows that when your Club structure isn't the best, continuity at test level can do wonders for players of his ability. I really hope he grows even more as a test player, world cricket WILL become more competitive if he does.

  • Faz on March 22, 2010, 17:21 GMT

    Ankur, McCullum is a tremendous player. By the way, the only players who are hyped are from India. Playing on dead tracks and having averages above 40. Perfect example is Eng vs Bang series. Bangladesh players with limited skills are able to score 100s on a dead track, goes to show anyone can have big averages playing on those kind of pitches.

  • ankur on March 22, 2010, 8:18 GMT

    Oh God! what a hype.McCullum had to get lucky some day and so he did...........well with the way NZ batters bat.........selectors and Vettori will pray for many such lucky days for him...

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