New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum was a relieved man after his decision not to enforce follow-on did not lead to his team’s defeat against India in the first cricket Test, which the hosts won by 40 runs to go 1-0 up in the two-match series, here today.
“We thought we have a big total and if we bowl well, that would be enough runs. We know the quality of their batsmen and how they are capable of putting together big scores and big partnerships. At one stage, when they were sitting 220 for 2, we were starting to get ourselves behind the eight-ball and it took something special to get us out of that. We respect the Indian team a lot for what they have done and where they sit in the world rankings and that’s what makes this victory so special,” McCullum said at the post-match press conference.
The Black Caps scored 503 runs in their first innings and then were shot out for just 105 after not enforcing the follow-on when they had bowled India out for just 202 runs. It was a decision that nearly came back to haunt them. India came really close to pull off a sensational victory before falling short of the target.
“You cannot regret any decision and when you make that decision, you put some thought into it. Ultimately someone has got to make that decision and I guess that comes down to me. I made the decision and I never regretted it for a moment. There’s no guarantee we would have bowled out India for 100 in their second innings and I said right at the outset that we have got the bowlers to take 20 wickets. I would hate to see us chase 150-200 on the last day on that wicket with Ravindra Jadeja coming in to play,” McCullum said.
The skipper said he still thought 407-run target was a big enough total for the Indians.
“After we decided not to enforce the follow on, we hoped to get a little more than a 100 in our second innings. But that’s what we got and I still thought 400 was a very good target. There are only three teams in the history of the game that have chased over 400. It was still a lot of runs on the board but the wicket was starting to play pretty well as well, so it was always going to be a tough ask and we knew that it was going to be a close contest towards the end,” he said.
McCullum rated his double-hundred in the first innings as the best knock he has ever played.
“It’s definitely the best innings I have played for New Zealand, now that we have gone on and won the Test match. It was a gripping Test match. Whilst we did not ram home the advantage we had in the second innings with the bat, we showed a lot of heart and a lot of character today to continue to bash away and keep fighting hard and get the result in the end,” said an elated McCullum.
McCullum admitted that New Zealand got away after India were placed at 220/2 was because Neil Wagner came up trumps with figures of 4 for 62.
“Wagner epitomises everything we want to be known for as a team, how aggressive he is, how hostile he is when he has got the ball in hand and how big his heart is as well. He bowled 10 overs into the wind late on day four which is no easy feat and it allowed Tim (Southee) and Trent (Boult) to have some decent downtime leading into that new ball.
“He has bowled like that for us now for 12-18 months and he has not always got the rewards but he has been an integral part of a jigsaw that we talk about as well. It was just nice today for a guy like that to get the rewards as well and the accolades that follow,” said the skipper, praising his match-winning bowler.
The defeat means that India will travel to Wellington for the second Test match, without having won a single game on the tour so far. It will be their last chance to do so.
“We have expected India to come hard at us in every game and they certainly have not disappointed. They keep putting us under pressure and thankfully we are answering those pressure situations at the moment.
“But we know India are a very proud team and well led by MS (Dhoni). We know he is a very proud man and he will make sure that they rally together and hit us hard in Wellington. I think we saw that with the way they bowled in the second innings – they could easily have drifted along and let the game peter out. But they hit us hard and put us under immense pressure and I expect them to do the same in the second Test,” he signed off.