February 18, 2014 1:30:07 pm
New Zealand recorded their first Test series victory over India since 2002 when the second match ended in a draw on Tuesday after Brendon McCullum had become the first New Zealander to score a Test triple century.
Captain McCullum’s 302 anchored New Zealand’s record 680 for eight declared, setting the visitors the impossible task of scoring 435 runs in 67 overs to achieve the victory they needed after the hosts won the first Test at Eden Park by 40 runs.
New Zealand had India in trouble early in their second innings with the sniff of an unlikely victory in their nostrils but once Virat Kohli knuckled down to record his sixth Test century, McCullum and Mahendra Singh Dhoni decided to call the game off with 15 overs remaining.
Tim Southee took two wickets after lunch to reduce India to 54 for three before Kohli (105 not out) and Rohit Sharma (31 not out) batted out the remainder of the day’s play to take their side through to 166 for three.
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Having driven New Zealand to safety by the end of the fourth day, the big question before play began on Tuesday was whether McCullum had declared overnight, 19 runs short of his personal milestone but giving his bowlers the chance to attack as India attempted to score 326 in 90 overs.
McCullum, however, returned with debutant Jimmy Neesham (67 overnight), as the queues formed outside the ground to see what many in the small crowd hoped would be history in the making.
He scored his first run of the day when he pushed an Ishant Sharma delivery wide of mid-off and strolled through for a single, which was warmly applauded, and pulled the bowler to the midwicket fence for his first boundary.
Ishant caused a collective intake of breath when he comprehensively beat McCullum on 293, though the batsman did not get a nick.
Neesham, however, was not getting caught up in the emotion as the tension ramped up with every delivery, every over that McCullum was still at the crease being applauded.
The 23-year-old temporarily stole his captain’s thunder with his first Test century when he tucked Ishant off his hip for two runs.
Neesham’s century came from 123 balls, including 15 boundaries, and was greeted with a massive cheer from the crowd as he raised his arms and celebrated.
McCullum then reached the milestone many had been waiting for when he dabbed Zaheer Khan behind square for his 32nd four and received a sustained round of applause that went on for more than a minute, while his father Stu jumped to his feet in celebration.
The 32-year-old’s innings lasted just two more balls when he feathered a catch off Zaheer to Dhoni.
His triple-century was the 28th in Test cricket and the New Zealand skipper became the 24th player to score one.
McCullum scored 535 runs in the two-match series, having also scored 224 in the first game in Auckland.
Neesham was 137 not out when McCullum declared at New Zealand’s highest Test score, surpassing the 671-4 they scored against Sri Lanka in 1991 at the same ground.
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