Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: McCullum gives fans hope

Brendon McCullum of New Zealand celebrates his century (L) as BJ Watling (R) looks on during day three of the 2nd Test match between New Zealand and India. Photo / Getty Images.
Brendon McCullum of New Zealand celebrates his century (L) as BJ Watling (R) looks on during day three of the 2nd Test match between New Zealand and India. Photo / Getty Images.

New Zealand 192 and 252-5
India 438
New Zealand lead by six runs

"We have a lot more ground to cover tomorrow."

That was New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum's reaction upon crossing the boundary rope after reviving his side's chances in the second test against India with an unbeaten 114.

The response underlines the healthy culture consuming the New Zealand cricket team this summer. That took another step forward today with the team rising from a vulnerable position at 94 for five to have a slim chance of saving the test at 252 with no further loss.

In doing so, McCullum and B-J Watling produced a record unbeaten partnership of 158 for the sixth wicket against India. They will endeavour to add to that tomorrow.

McCullum played what once might have been an uncharacteristic anchor role. Not anymore. With three test centuries this summer, including the double-ton to secure victory in the first test at Eden Park, McCullum's demonstrated the ability to adapt to the demands of his team.

It was further ammunition to counter detractors who claimed his position as a specialist batsman has been under threat.

"We had a test match to save and then, if we can put ourselves in a position tomorrow, who knows what we can achieve," McCullum said. "It was hard work out there. I thought they bowled brilliantly and, at 94 for five, things weren't looking so good. Thankfully B-J and I put together an undefeated partnership.

"It's what the team required and as captain that's what you try to achieve. You're not always going to do it, but you have to work your game to the situation. We have a lot more ground to cover but remaining five down was key. If we had been six or seven down I think the test was over.

"To be honest we would probably need a double century to keep in this game. If we can emulate what we did today then tomorrow night it would be great to make some decisions about where the game will go rather than trying to fight out of it."

McCullum says the spirit's there to do it.

"Absolutely. If we had rolled over it would have been disappointing, given how successful our summer has been. That's the beauty of winning consistently and not finding yourself in too many of these situations. When you do it's easier to get out of them. It's a good start but we know we have so much more hard work to go."

Survival is possible at the Basin. One example came 23 years ago when Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones produced a world record partnership of 467 to guide New Zealand to a draw against Sri Lanka. The hosts endured more than two and a half days to make 671 for four in their second innings.

Today McCullum and Watling produced a record sixth wicket stand, taking over from the 137 between Chris Cairns and Craig McMillan in 1998-99 at the same ground.
Milestones came readily for the skipper.

McCullum made his ninth test century with a six off Ishant Sharma and became the fourth New Zealand batsman to pass 5000 test runs when he got to 83.

Stephen Fleming, who scored 7172 runs at 40.06; Martin Crowe, who made 5444 at 45.36; and John Wright, with 5334 at 37.82 have previously achieved the feat.

He joins Fleming on nine test centuries. That is fifth-equal on the all-time New Zealand list behind Crowe (17), Wright (12) and Ross Taylor and Nathan Astle (11).

McCullum's latest effort came up in 197 balls and 298 minutes, including 12 fours and one six. It's his third test century this summer. He survived an ambitious appeal to start the Sharma over from a delivery sliding down leg.

Next came a good length effort outside off which McCullum pulverised over long-on. It was a moment of respite in a gruelling afternoon. The crowd responded by jumping to their feet in their ovation.

Watling was equal to the task. He produced his second half-century this summer, having not passed 20 in his previous four innings. It backed up glovework which saw him take five catches yesterday.

There were tricky moments. McCullum had a reprieve on nine when the score was 78 for three. He popped a catch to Virat Kohli at short straight mid-on off Shami but a casual one-handed effort saw it spilt. Ishant Sharma dropped a gift caught and bowled when the New Zealand skipper was on 36. Watling was then almost run out when McCullum pushed to Mohammed Shami at point and sent his partner scrambling back with the score at 139.

Earlier, Corey Anderson plopped a caught and bowled up to Ravindra Jadeja at 94 for five, 19 balls after lunch, meaning defeat loomed early in the middle session.

India remain in overall control, having eked out three wickets as New Zealand pushed to 87 for four at lunch.

Kane Williamson attempted a cover drive and edged Khan behind on seven when New Zealand were 27 for two. Rutherford followed 25 runs and 6.2 overs later for 35, also from a good length Khan ball which straightened. Again, it found Dhoni's gloves. Late in the session Shami had Tom Latham fish at a ball outside off stump to gift Dhoni his third catch of the session.

Khan was the pick of the Indian bowlers, finishing with three for 60 from 25 overs. His opening eight-over spell was his best. The 35-year-old took two for 21 to start from the Government House end. He angled the ball well across both the left and right-handers.

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