McCullum keeps India at bay

Reprieved twice, Kiwi skipper slams unbeaten ton to help hosts stay afloat

McCullum keeps India at bay

Dropped catches by the Indians enabled New Zealand to stage a remarkable recovery on the third day of the second Test although the visitors still held the upperhand.

Facing a massive first innings deficit of 248, the home side was tottering at 94 for five but New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum (114 batting) was dropped by Virat Kohli on nine off Mohammad Shami and by Ishant Sharma off his own bowling when he was on 36.

McCullum and B J Watling (52 batting) could not be separated thereafter and had put on an unbeaten 158-run sixth-wicket partnership to give their side a slender lead of six runs with five wickets standing.

McCullum pulled the team out of early trouble and made full use of two reprieves to battle his way to 114 off 237 balls and together with Watling, who scored an equally important 52 off 208 balls, led a brilliant fightback to keep New Zealand afloat.

McCullum and Watling guided New Zealand to 252 for five in 99 overs at stumps on the third day.

The pitch on offer at the Basin Reserve was a far cry from the juicy green surface of the first day and was a perfect platform for New Zealand to wipe out the huge deficit after India made 438 in their first innings in reply to the hosts’ 192.

But the start of the day was far from rosy for the Black Caps as veteran pacer Zaheer Khan inflicted early damage by removing two wickets in the opening session to reduce New Zealand to 87 for four at lunch.

The post-lunch session too started on a precarious note for New Zealand as they lost Corey Anderson (2) cheaply before McCullum and Watling joined hands to bail them out and ensured that India will have to come out to bat again in their second innings.

But with two full day’s play remaining and New Zealand leading India by just six runs with five wickets in hand, the visitors will still fancy their chances to level the series after the hosts won the first Test by 40 runs at Auckland.

McCullum cloberred Ishant over the long-on boundary for a six to bring up his century in style off 197 balls.

At the other end, Watling gave McCullum able support and reached a well-deserved half-century in the 93rd over off 190 balls.

It also marked McCullum and Watling’s 150-run partnership and in doing so, they broke the record of Chris Cairns and Craig McMillan, who had scored New Zealand’s previous best for the sixth-wicket in Tests against India. They had scored 137 runs at the same ground in 1998.

Earlier in the day, McCullum and Watling kept at bay the disciplined Indian bowlers to fight their way to 146 for five at tea.

After a dominating morning session, in which they picked up three wickets giving away just 63 runs from 25.1 overs, the Indian bowlers kept up the pressure in the post lunch period with some tight bowling.

But the visitors could pick just one wicket as skipper McCullum and Watling played fighting knocks to help New Zealand add 59 runs in the post-lunch session.

In a spot of bother, Anderson (2) joined McCullum at the crease after lunch.

But four overs into the session, Anderson departed giving a return catch to Jadeja off his own bowling. While trying to turn a slower one from the left-arm spinner, Anderson only managed to loop the ball to offer a simple return catch.

McCullum was then joined by Watling and the duo played cautiously to deny any further breakthrough to the Indians.

McCullum and Watling had just one plan — defend as scoring was not at all their priority.

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