McCullum 281*, Watling 124, Neesham 67*, India a big fat 0

DAY 4 IN WELLINGTON—Toothless India watch as NZ stage monumental fightback.

Scores | Action in images | Day 3 | Day 2 | Day 1 | Full coverage

Man of the match Brendon McCullum of New Zealand celebrates the test series win with teammates at the conclusion of day five of the 2nd Test match between New Zealand and India on February 18, 2014 in... more 
Man of the match Brendon McCullum of New Zealand celebrates the test series win with teammates at the conclusion of day five of the 2nd Test match between New Zealand and India on February 18, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images) less 
1 / 30
Getty Images | Photo by Stringer / Hagen Hopkins
Tue 18 Feb, 2014 10:30 AM IST


Brief Scores—New Zealand 192 and 571-6 lead India (438) by 325 runs.

Through the course of Day 4 in the Wellington Test, the focus kept returning to Brendon McCullum as he passed milestone after milestone. A drive through the covers brought up his 150. A whip through square leg delivered his third 200, all of them against India. A powerful pull for six to the same area brought up his 250. But even as he passed these milestones in the course of a scarcely believable fight-back with BJ Watling, the predominant expression on his face was of pain.

The pain in his back. The pain in his shoulders. The pain in his knee. And the pain of knowing that though he had braved it for 12 hours, he couldn’t savour the sweetness of his achievements till his team was secure. At stumps, the New Zealand captain could afford to smile a little. They are now 325 ahead with little chance of losing a game that seemed lost yesterday.

Yesterday, India had the match with New Zealand at 94-5. Little did MS Dhoni know he would have to wait 122 overs for another wicket. BJ Watling played Watson to McCullum’s Sherlock perfectly, bailing New Zealand out of this crisis with a world-record 352 runs for the sixth wicket. Watling’s near-perfect defence of his wicket kept him at the crease for close to nine hours as he completed one of the slowest Test hundreds of all time in 297 balls. 

When the frontliners failed, Dhoni brought himself on. (AP) A couple of half-chances came to India’s slip cordon and were missed. On two occasions, the cordon was so deep that thick edges didn’t carry. Mohammad Shami finally dismissed Watling second delivery with the new ball, thanks to a fast in-cutter. But India’s misery was far from over. Out came James Neesham, backing up his excellent 33 in the first innings with a half-century on debut in the second.

These are not meaningless milestones for the Black Caps. They are ranked eighth in Test cricket. The last time they’d won a series over a team that wasn’t Zimbabwe, Bangladesh or West Indies was in 2005 when they beat Sri Lanka at this very venue. Cricket’s perennial featherweights have now chanced upon an Indian team that has forgotten how to win when the ball bounces higher than the waist. Resultantly, India now face the humiliating prospect of returning from this tour without a single win.

What did MS Dhoni do wrong? He began the day in control of the game. But instead of going for New Zealand’s jugular, he went on the defensive as has been the bane of his captaincy. Half an hour after the start, he brought on Shami without any slips. The cordon continued to be frugally manned through the day and, sometimes, not at all.

Dhoni threw the towel in before the noon session was done. When the first-line pacers had failed to as much as trouble McCullum and Watling, Dhoni had to call in Virat Kohli to bowl seam-ups. Predictably, that ploy failed too, so Dhoni had to fall back to his only remaining pace option: himself. No prizes for guessing how well that worked out. So deflated was the team, New Zealand smashed 131 runs in the evening session, with McCullum on course for New Zealand’s first triple century.

Dhoni rotated his bowlers, kept adjusting his fields, even threw in an occasional one-liner to keep his boys on their toes (“Pujara ko wahan taali bajane ke liye nahin rakha”—urging Ravindra Jadeja to bowl an off-stump line). But none of it worked. Was it just one of those days? Probably not.

India haven’t won a Test away from home since 2011. They haven’t won an away series over a top-ranked team in seven years. They’re likely to return winless from the country ranked seventh in ODIs and eighth in Tests. Faced with stats like those, India must ask themselves if they want business to go on as usual. After all, this is the year they tour England, Australia and then enter the World Cup.

In the opposition camp, things are rosy. McCullum’s leadership skills, team spirit and patriotism have been questioned in the past. But the results against West Indies and India would boost their confidence when they host the World Cup next year.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Royal test for Kings

Royal test for Kings

Preview — Clash of philosophies between Australia-centric teams More »

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

Have nothing to prove to anybody — Sehwag

The Nawab of Najafgarh says a good run in IPL could help his chances of a comeback on India's tour to England in June. More »

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Duminy steals first win for Delhi

Furious fifties by Duminy and Dinesh Karthik end a long losing streak for the Daredevils. More »

Five things England must do to bounce back

Five things England must do to bounce back

England have appointed a new head coach in Peter Moores. More »

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

AB, Parthiv seal Bangalore's second win

Royal Challengers overcame a stutter to cruise to the small target they were set by Mumbai Indians. More »

‘Felt like helpless minority’

‘Felt like helpless minority’

Former BCCI treasurer Ajay Shirke says emotions got the better of the Srinivasan and he tried to oversimplify things by calling Meiyappan an “enthusia… More »

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

No way back for Pietersen: ECB

Kevin Pietersen's hopes of reviving his international career appeared to end Saturday when ECB managing director Paul Downton said there was 'no way back'… More »

The world record that nearly wasn't

The world record that nearly wasn't

Twenty years ago this week, Brian Lara became Test cricket's highest scorer, but he almost didn't make it. More »

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

Srinivasan can attend BCCI meeting

His status as president of TNCA makes him eligible to attend the Working Committee meeting on Sunday. More »

Moores gets second stint as coach

Moores gets second stint as coach

In a two-year spell from 2007 to 2009, the 51-year-old Moores led England in seven Test series. More »

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh senior players to see shrink

Bangladesh's senior players will have three sessions with a psychological skill development coach later this month More »

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Maxwell carves his parallel universe

Glenn Maxwell seems to project an icy disdain when at the crease. Match situations rarely faze him and the bubble in which he plays excludes everyone … More »

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

BCCI is not anybody’s property — Dalmiya

Dalmiya feels that Srinivasan’s ‘power hungry’ attitude isn’t helping matters. More »

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

Tough for bowlers: Saeed Ajmal

The 36-year-old believes the T20 format and rule changes in 50-over matches have made a real difference. More »

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

KP ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

BCCI members want independent probe

BCCI members want independent probe

The board members are realising after the Supreme Court's observations that something has to be done — IS Bindra More »

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

'BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srini'

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Delhi look for first points against confident Kolkata

Preview — The threat of Sunil Narine looms large again. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Preview — Given the firepower in both line-ups, Dubai crowd may see another high-scorer More »

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »