India’s listless bowlers allowed New Zealand off the hook as the home team rode on skipper Brendon McCullum’s monumental double century to continue their remarkable fightback and take a commanding lead on the fourth and penultimate day of the second cricket Test on Monday.
McCullum remained unbeaten on 281 runs and shared a world record partnership of 352 runs for the sixth wicket with BJ Watling (124), helping their side reach a formidable 571/6 at stumps and take the game away from India at the Basin Reserve.
India, who had New Zealand in a spot of bother at 94 for five in their second innings, are now facing the prospect of even losing the match with the hosts swelling their lead to 325 runs. The duo defied the visitors for 123 overs and turned around a 246-run deficit into a massive lead with one day left in the match.
McCullum was still batting after nearly six sessions at the crease, facing 525 balls and hitting 28 fours and 4 sixes. At the other end, James Neesham brought up his maiden Test fifty and was unbeaten on 67 off 93 balls, with 9 fours.
For India, Zaheer Khan (3-129), Mohammad Shami (2-136) and Ishant Sharma (0-124) toiled hard on an unresponsive pitch, particularly with the third new ball. Ravindra Jadeja (1-108) was rendered ineffective as well. Part-timers Rohit Sharma (0-40) and Virat Kohli (0-13) were given a go to try something different, while skipper MS Dhoni (0-5) also bowled after the tea-break.
Starting at 440/5 after tea, the set batsmen had another string of batting records coming their way, with the pitch playing perfect foil to them. As Dhoni bowled his gentle medium-pace first up, McCullum and Watling crossed the 350-mark for their partnership in the 159th over.
An over later, they brought up the highest ever sixth-wicket partnership in Test cricket breaking the 351-mark by Mahela and Prasanna Jayawardene, also set against India at Ahmedabad in 2009. Their lead also swelled to 200 in the meantime.
The third new ball was taken immediately and the Indian pacers put in a lot of effort to change the direction of the match. Mohammad Shami got the breakthrough finally, in the 161st over, trapping Watling lbw. He faced 367 balls in his innings, hitting 13 fours. Meanwhile, McCullum carried on and crossed the 250-run mark, starting to climb the ladder for highest individual score for a New Zealand batsman. At the other end, Neesham too joined in the fun and struck some lusty blows, matching his partner for strokes.
They continued to punish the hapless bowling on a flat track and in the final session put on 125 runs for the seventh wicket, as the hosts crossed the 550-run mark.
McCullum heaped misery on India, finishing as the second-highest run-scorer for New Zealand, behind Martin Crowe’s 299 scored against Sri Lanka at the same ground in 1991. On the final day, he will attempt to become the first Kiwi batsman to get a Test triple hundred.
Earlier in the post-lunch session, McCullum and Watling continued their brilliant domination of this Indian attack on a pitch that 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.