New Zealand’s cricket side has always punched above its weight—putting in performances that belie its small population and lack of financial resources relative to Australia. It currently ranks a lowly eighth (out of ten) in the ICC World Test Rankings, and nobody gave it much hope against the Indians (ranked number two) when the latter visited Aotearoa for a two-match series. They reckoned without Brendon McCullum.
McCullum is an exciting and attractive player—known for big shots and fast-scoring, and for being devil-may-care, even reckless, at the crease. However, quashing his natural instincts to hit the hide off every ball, he has so far amassed a ton of records in scoring 225 in the first Test match and 289 so far in the second. He is only a few runs away from being the first Kiwi to score more than 300 runs in an innings, he has become only the second New Zealand batsmen to hit three double-hundreds, and in this latest knock he’s batted longer than any previous New Zealand batsman in an innings.
All this took place with New Zealand behind a whole pool table of 8-balls. Having been bundled out for 192 in the first innings, the Kiwis were helpless as India amassed 438 in their first innings, and took five New Zealand second-inning wickets to leave New Zealand effectively six runs ahead with only five wickets remaining. India must have fancied their chances of squaring the series, but McCullum and B. J. Watling (124) added a record 354 runs for the sixth wicket (a world record), and McCullum and Jimmy Neesham (67 not out) piled on another 125, to leave New Zealand 325 runs ahead, and in a much healthier situation.
I (Martin), for one, would be thrilled for McCullum to uncork some of his magic-in-a-bottle fireworks on the final day of the Test, set India a competitive total, and allow his bowlers to do the rest. Somehow, India—extraordinarily talented, yet infuriatingly complacent and conservative as they have been in this series—need to be woken up. And lowly New Zealand might be just the side to do it!