McCullum hits double ton as New Zealand consolidate

McCullum hits double ton as New Zealand consolidate

New Zealand turned their rearguard performance into a grinding one, keeping India in the field for a fifth successive session in the second Test and reaching 440/5 at tea on day four here today.

At the Basin Reserve, skipper Brendon McCullum (228 not out, 441 balls, 25 fours, 2 sixes) and BJ Watling (119 not out, 360 balls, 13 fours) broke a plethora of records to frustrate the Indian team and extending their lead to 194 runs.

They have now put on 346 unbeaten runs for the sixth wicket, even as Indian bowlers were guilty of not keeping a tight line in this first session. Zaheer Khan (3-115), Mohammad Shami (1-103) and Ishant Sharma (0-103) looked for any signs of help from the wicket, but none was forthcoming as the batsmen ground them down.

Ravindra Jadeja (1-78) was ineffective as well, while part-timers Rohit Sharma (0-18) and Virat Kohli (0-12) were given a go as well in hopes of breaking this partnership.

Post-lunch, McCullum (169*) and Watling (90*) looked to further increase their brilliant domination of this Indian attack on a pitch that has completely changed character to become a batting beauty. They brought up the 350-mark for New Zealand in the 128th over, first one after the break, and then carried on to reach personal milestones.

First up they broke the highest partnership record for New Zealand for any wicket against India, passing the 271 runs scored by Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder in Napier in 2009. Then in the 138th over, Watling brought up his 3rd Test century in 420 minutes, facing 297 balls and hitting 12 fours.

Unlike his captain who was dropped twice, the keeper-batsman never even gave a sniff to the Indian bowlers.

Their 300-run partnership came in the 142nd over, and then two overs later, McCullum became the first New Zealand batsman to hit back-to-back double hundreds. He scored his runs off 395 balls, batting for a mammoth 537 minutes, and hitting 24 fours as well as 1 six.

It was his third double hundred, all three having come against India, and he is only the second New Zealand batsman after Stephen Fleming to score three double-hundreds. 

Before going to tea, they crossed the 339-run sixth wicket partnership between McCullum and Martin Guptill against Bangladesh at Hamilton in 2010 and became the third-highest-ever partnership for New Zealand in Test cricket.

In the morning session, starting at their overnight score of 252/5, McCullum and Watling needed a double approach on this fourth day's play. If it was all about survival on day three, now they also needed to score runs and put pressure on India. And they did not get bogged down, as shots started flowing once they both got a feel of the conditions early on.

For the record, the golden-brown pitch now looked completely different from the lush-green wicket that it was on day one.

Their progress was very heartening for the hosts' camp, with the scoring rate reaching 4.7 over in the first ten, and in the first hour of play, 56 runs came in the 13 overs bowled. The 200-run partnership between the two batsmen came up in the 110th over of the innings. As if sensing the high scoring rate, Jadeja was introduced in the 115th over and was given an attacking field with three close-in fielders.

But it didn't have any effect on the two settled batsmen who marched along without fuss. In the next over, McCullum crossed the 150-run mark for the second time in this series, notching up his best series aggregate and going past his previous best of 370 runs, also scored against India in 2010. He faced 303 balls and batted for a humongous 432 minutes for this, hitting 18 fours and 1 six.

After being put down twice yesterday, if at all he gave a chance, it was in the 122nd over bowled by Zaheer, when he edged one past the slip cordon wherein Shikhar Dhawan was standing at third slip. Watling though was solid as ever at the other end, and the 250-run partnership came up in the 126th over, just before the break.

On day one, Ishant Sharma's best Test figures of 6-51 bowled New Zealand out for a paltry 192 runs. Then, on day two, Ajinkya Rahane (118) strucks his maiden Test hundred to take India to 438 in their first innings, a lead of 246 runs. On day three, needing 247 runs to make India bat again, New Zealand were reeling at 94/5 before a 158-run partnership between McCullum and Watling rescued them. 

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