Cricket: Fine show of staying power from NZ openers

By David Leggat

Brendon McCullum. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Brendon McCullum. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Brendon McCullum laughed off the idea.

Having sailed past 100, 150 and 200, did he contemplate heading for the pavilion to put his feet up, his job well done?

"Not at all," he said as he reflected on his 206 on the opening day of the New Zealand XI game against Pakistan at Cobham Oval yesterday.

"You spend far too many times watching cricket in the changing room to want to be retiring in these games. Yes, it's a warm-up game, but when you're scoring runs you want to keep scoring them.

"That allows other people to come in and bat in better situations as well, so overall it was definitely the right option to continue to bat."

On an easy-paced pitch, the New Zealand XI reached 342 for four, and McCullum's innings doubled both as an advisory that his occasionally troublesome back felt fine, and his six hours 10 minutes and 218 balls in the middle served as an ideal lead-in to the first test, starting in Hamilton on Friday.

McCullum and test opening-partner Tim McIntosh put on 162 against a varied but generally uninspired Pakistan attack.

McIntosh's 51 included some nicely timed drives, one punchy square cut and runs worked off his pads, and gave him a good look at those he will face in different circumstances in Hamilton.

"We are still feeling out our partnership. We've had a couple of good ones, a couple not so good, so any opportunity to bank up a partnership at the top of the order has to be taken," McCullum said.

He mixed bold strokes with periods of studiousness, finding acres of room at mid wicket tempting throughout.

There were a couple of reverse sweeps, to show his inventive instincts are never far away, in an innings which included 20 fours and five sixes.

He went to his 100 slashing left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman between wicketkeeper and slip for an all-run four, hammered 17 off an over from offspinner Saeed Ajmal, and completed the double ton by lifting Ajmal high over long on.

Any game which is made 12 vs 12 by mutual agreement automatically loses something as a contest. When Ajmal, who was not even listed in the 12, marked out his run for the first over after tea, it descended to farce.

Ninety overs were due to be bowled in the day. Even with an extra half hour thrown in, and 31 overs of spin, the tourists managed just 86.

Four fast-medium bowlers appear to be vying for three test spots. Left-armer Wahab Riaz was lively and probably the pick of the quartet overall.

"It was hard work, a hard day for the bowlers, but that's how it goes in test cricket. So it was good preparation," Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said last night.

B.J. Watling grafted 98 balls over 24 before edging to second slip; Williamson did not look convinced when he was given caught behind after a long delay.

It was a laid back kind of day in a pleasant setting. No one was in much of a hurry to do anything.

Pakistan's batsmen will get their turn at some point today and, like McCullum and McIntosh, will want to score some pre-test points against a New Zealand attack which bears a striking resemblance to what they will face in the first test.

- NZ Herald

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