McCullum's double earns the BLACKCAPS a draw

Brendon McCullum climbed a peak few New Zealanders have conquered to help save the second cricket test on the final day against India today.

The 29-year-old scored a Test best 225 to ensure the match ended in a stalemate, sending the two sides to Nagpur for the third test starting on Saturday with the series still up for grabs.

The BLACKCAPS declared their second innings at 448 for eight at tea, holding an overall advantage of 326 runs, and India made 68 without loss in their second innings from 17 overs before the teams shook hands, with Virender Sehwag helping himself to a cheap 54 not out and Gautam Gambhir unbeaten on 14.

Close to two hours earlier McCullum reached the finish line of his personal marathon when he skied a catch off fast bowler Shantakumaran Sreesanth 30 minutes before the tea break after being at the crease for 544 minutes and facing 308 balls, hitting 22 fours and four sixes.

In his second match as a specialist opener after a 52-test career as a wicketkeeper/batsman, McCullum produced some golden goods with just his country's eighth double century on foreign soil.

And he became only the second New Zealander to post a double century in India after the late, great Bert Sutcliffe made 230 not out at New Delhi way back in the dark ages of the 1955-56 season.

Along the way he guaranteed the tourists became only the fourth New Zealand team to top 400 in the third innings of a test away from home, and short only of the best of 469 against England at Lord's in 1931.

For a man renowned as a slasher and dasher in the one-day and Twenty20 formats of the game, it was a remarkable display of application and concentration from McCullum, who raised his double century in the middle session by lapping part-time spinner Suresh Raina to the fine leg fence.

It came after 501 minutes of dedication to the team cause after the tourists had resumed this morning with McCullum on 124 and the team score at 237 for four, just 115 runs ahead overall.

He had commendable support for the entire first session from Kane Williamson, fresh from his 131 on debut in the first test at Ahmedabad, who made a high quality 69 as they put on 145 for the fifth wicket before Williamson departed early in the second session when he missed a turning delivery from offspinner Harbhajan Singh to be trapped leg before wicket.

Williamson again revealed his mature nature as New Zealand ticked all the right boxes this morning, the 20-year-old thriving on the heavy responsibility placed on his shoulders.

Williamson's cricket nous was obvious as he ensured the runs kept ticking over to reach his 50 off only 77 deliveries with eight boundaries.

Williamson did not take any undue risks and used the full depth of the crease intelligently to calmly pick off the Indian bowlers by cleverly using his feet to the spinners and finding gaps in the field through well judged placement.

New Zealand began briskly this morning, with Williamson the instigator as he helped himself to three boundaries in the opening over from Sreesanth with a solid turn behind square, a straight drive and a glide through the vacant gully region.

He refused to be dictated to as he used his feet to hit left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha back over his head twice.

His positive intent was obvious and it greatly aided McCullum, who took guard this morning determined to extend his stay as long as possible.

Williamson's forthright approach enabled his senior partner to dig in and pace himself, which he did, taking 37 minutes before registering his first boundary of the day when he hit Sreesanth through gully.

McCullum had a life on 148 when substitute fielder Cheteshwar Pujara could not hold on to a sharp chance at short leg off offspinner Harbhajan Singh.

But that was McCullum's only blemish until his mishit off Sreesanth.

India got only three overs out of pace spearhead Zaheer Khan today.

The left-arm quick suffered an abdominal strain yesterday morning and did not bowl at all in the last two sessions of the fourth day.

Today, he sent down two overs with the second new ball before leaving the field, presumably for treatment to his injury, and returned to field after lunch.


Match in the balance after McCullum's ton

A controlled century by opening batsmen Brendon McCullum has taken the Test match into the final day with the BLACKCAPS on 237 for four, leading by 115 runs.

In his first series as a specialist opener, McCullum made 124 not out, his sixth test hundred, passing the landmark by driving spinner Harbhajan Singh off the back foot for four through the covers.

He reached three figures off 132 balls, with many of his 10 fours coming from the sweep shot while the lofted straight drive netted him three sixes.

Along the way he and left-hander Tim McIntosh wiped out the first innings deficit of 122 as they registered the first century stand between two New Zealand openers since Stephen Fleming and Mark Richardson put on 161 against England at Nottingham 6-1/2 years ago.

But McIntosh was dismissed for 49 with the score at 125 shortly before the tea interval at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, attempting to sweep left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha and offering a catch to the man under the helmet at short leg.

Martin Guptill then reached 18 before he attempted to cut Ojha only to tickle an edge to wicketkeeper MS Dhoni and New Zealand were vulnerable at 187 for three, 65 ahead, when Ross Taylor had his off stump uprooted by fast bowler Shantakumaran Sreesanth when he was on seven.

Their position worsened when Jesse Ryder edged part-time spinner Suresh Raina behind on 20 but their last specialist batsman, Kane Williamson, survived despite being struck on the helmet by Sreesanth as he reached 12 by the close.

Captain Dhoni employed some remarkable fields, having eight men patrolling the leg side at one stage against McCullum, who responded by using the reverse sweep.

They were unnecessarily negative tactics when the tourists were effectively only 40 runs ahead overall at that stage.

All the pressure was on the New Zealand openers at the start of their innings and they responded well after stringing together partnerships of 8, 4 and 4 in this series.

McCullum and McIntosh forged a productive working relationship for the first time, aided by the absence of Indian pace spearhead Zaheer Khan, who managed just 4.3 overs before leaving the ground with what is though to be a back or side strain.

Zaheer returned after tea but did not bowl.

Earlier, the New Zealanders had been kept in the field for close to 45 minutes this morning as India progressed to 472 before a 10th wicket stand of 105 between Harbhajan and Sreesanth was finally ended.

Harbhajan was left on 111 not out off 114 balls, with seven sixes and as many fours as he became the first No 8 batsman in history to score successive test centuries.

He was the man of the match in the first test at Ahmedabad with a double of 69 and 115.

New Zealand spinner Daniel Vettori finished with figures of five for 135 off 49.4 overs, 19th five-wicket bag in tests and his first in almost two years.


Day3: BLACKCAPS fight hard but India take the lead

Harbhajan Singh stole New Zealand's thunder as India gained a first innings lead on the third day of the second cricket test here today.

Harbhajan hit a bewildering 85 not out as the hosts reached stumps at 436 for nine in response to New Zealand's first innings of 350.

Fresh from his maiden test century in the drawn first test at Ahmedabad, Harbhajan toyed with he New Zealanders, smacking five sixes and seven fours of 82 balls as he manipulated an unbroken 10th wicket partnership of 69 runs with tailender Shantakumaran Sreesanth.

Sreesanth came to the middle with his team leading by just 17 runs, but stuck around long to watch Harbhajan cart the tourists to all corners of Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.

The tourists were reduced at times to employing nine fielders to ring the boundary but Harbhajan could not be contained.

New Zealand skipper and left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori got through a mountain of work, sending down 45 overs to take four for 123 while young seamer Tim Southee also impressed, taking three for 95 off 28 overs.

Until the late hold up, the world's top ranked test nation were kept honest by New Zealand, who arrived at the ground today in damage limitation mode with the hosts resuming at a powerful 178 for two.

But their batsmen didn't produce the goods apart from Harbhajan and VVS Laxman, who made a stylish 74 before being trapped leg before wicket by fast bowler Chris Martin after tea.

The Indians were tied down for long periods by a disciplined New Zealand attack, with Rahul Dravid painstakingly slow in making 45 before Southee's appeal for leg before wicket was upheld.

Laxman's 48th test half-century occupied 227 minutes and 160 balls, 11 of which he guided to the boundary in his 116th test and his very first in his home city of Hyderabad.

His dismissal was followed immediately by that of captain MD Dhoni, who scooped Vettori to Brendon McCullum in the covers, before first test centurymaker Harbhajan took his side past New Zealand's total with a wild slash for four after being touched up by two bouncers from Martin.

Zaheer Khan departed shortly after that, hitting Southee to Brent Arnel behind square leg.

Earlier, two wickets fell in the session after lunch, with seam bowler Southee accounting for an obdurate Dravid before left-hander Suresh Raina surrendered in meek fashion.

Dravid is not named The Wall for nothing as time tended to stand still when he was at the crease, his runs coming in 202 minutes of cautious defence.

He and Laxman put on 75 runs for the fourth wicket after India scored just 59 runs from 30 overs up until lunch.

Raina made 20 and was looking to up the tempo when he holed out at deep mid wicket where Martin Guptill held the catch to give Vettori his third wicket.

The New Zealanders were also delighted to see the back of batting master Sachin Tendulkar, who perished to an uncharacteristically rash shot early this morning.

The 37-year-old premeditated his stroke in the fifth over when he charged Vettori and edged a catch high to the right of Ross Taylor at slip.

It was a schoolboy error from Tendulkar, who was on 13 and still unsettled after he had needlessly flirted with a short ball outside off stump from fast bowler Chris Martin.

From a distance it seemed that Tendulkar was weighed down by the suffocating expectations of a nation as he strives to become the first player to register 50 test centuries.

Normally impervious to outside intrusions, Tendulkar showed all the signs of a man distracted from the nuts and bolts of his day job as he gifted Vettori his wicket in a rare display of impetuousness.


Day 2: Ryder shines but India advance

The BLACKCAPS will likely pay a heavy price for a particularly poor session as India imposed themselves on the second cricket test here today.

The tourists under-achieved when posting a first innings score of 350 after targeting a tally more in the region of 500 on a good batting surface at Ranjiv Gandhi International Stadium.

New Zealand lost five wickets for 83 runs on the second morning as India wrapped up the innings shortly into the second session of the day.

Openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir avoided major alarms as they took their team to 62 without loss by tea, with Sehwag on 29 and left-hander Gambhir on 28.

Sehwag, one of the most destructive batsmen in world cricket, was kept quiet early on as he took 23 balls to reach two, but he began getting his eye in as fast bowler Chris Martin was clipped for successive boundaries through wide mid on and third man.

Only Jesse Ryder among the New Zealanders prospered today, kicking on from his overnight 22 to score a stylish 70 as his team's resistance wilted meekly in the face of quality bowling from offspinner Harbhajan Singh and left-arm quick Zaheer Khan.

Ryder's fifth test half-century extended his golden run against the Indians, which included his 103 during the drawn first test at Ahmedabad.

He has now scored precisely 500 runs in seven innings against the world's top ranked test nation at a boisterous average of 71.42.

But he sorely lacked support today as Gareth Hopkins, Kane Williamson and Daniel Vettori all came and went cheaply this morning.

Ryder, 26, looked in ominous touch after taking guard on 22, peeling off five boundaries in the next 42 minutes as he reached his half-century.

The solid left-hander struck the ball crisply and immediately found his rhythm, leg glancing Zaheer to fine leg for his opening boundary off just the third ball he faced, then smacking Shantakumaran Sreesanth through the covers for another four.

Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha was swept to the mid wicket fence as Ryder continued to enjoy himself at India's expense.

All three of his test centuries to date have come against India and he looked very much at ease while there were comings and goings at the other end.

He appeared on target to top three figures again until his soft hands deserted him as Harbhajan found the edge of his bat for a simple catch at slip.

Ryder's innings occupied 199 minutes and he faced 120 balls, 10 of which he deposited to the boundary.

Zaheer caused the early trouble for the tourists, quickly removing wicketkeeper Hopkins and Williamson, who were both trapped leg before wicket.

Operating around the wicket, Zaheer pinned Hopkins in front for four then Australian umpire Simon Taufel had no hesitation in raising his finger again when Williamson played down the wrong line.

Williamson's contribution was also four, after he had marked his debut at Ahmedabad with an outstanding 131.

That brought captain Vettori to the crease and he was immediately peppered with three successive bouncers from Sreesanth, India's fast bowler with attitude.

Vettori comfortably ducked under them all then toe-ended an attempted pull off the fourth ball not far from the man under the helmet at short leg.

But he had made just 11 when the left-hander missed an attempted sweep shot off Harbhajan, the ball hitting him plumb in front in the groin protector and leaving Sri Lankan umpire Kumar Dharmasena with an easy leg before wicket decision to make.

Harbhajan also accounted for Tim Southee for 10, dragging the batsmen down the pitch for MS Dhoni to complete a stumping.

Zaheer ended with healthy figures of four for 69 from 27 overs while Harbhajan had four for 76 off 35.3.

New Zealand had resumed this morning on 258 for four after Tim McIntosh played the anchor role in scoring a fine 102, his second test century, yesterday.

The Auckland left-handed opener proved his powers of concentration over 376 minutes before being bowled off an inside edge by Zaheer in the penultimate over of the opening day.

McIntosh's Barnacle Bill impersonation was vital for the tourists, who opted to bat first on a pitch promising plenty of runs.

He shared a mighty second wicket partnership which realised 147 runs with fellow Aucklander, Martin Guptill, who dominated both the strike and the scoring to post a high quality 85.


Day 1: McIntosh ton helps BLACKCAPS to 258

Tim McIntosh ensured New Zealand stuck rigidly to their gameplan to bat for time and end the day in a strong position in the second cricket test against India at Hyderabad.

They advanced at to score of 258 for four on the opening day after winning the toss here at Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, India's newest test venue.

Left-handed opening batsman McIntosh best illustrated the tourists' determined mindset as he grafted for 376 minutes to score a tradesmanlike 102 while Martin Guptill looked all class, hitting a stylish 85.

The toll on McIntosh became evident in the extended final session as fatigue set in but he found the energy reserves to get to three figures for the second time in his Test career by working offspinner Harbhajan Singh to mid on for a slow single.

He was finally dismissed in the penultimate over of the day when fast bowler Zaheer Khan found an inside edge which cannoned into leg stump.

Jesse Ryder and wicketkeeper Gareth Hopkins will resume tomorrow on 22 and nought respectively.

Fresh from a pair in the drawn first test, McIntosh registered his century in patient fashion after putting on a second wicket stand worth 147 runs with Guptill.

Guptill dominated both the strike and the scoring, driving sweetly down the ground and hitting nine fours and one six in 203 minutes.

He appeared destined for just his second test century until he was left to regret a decision to play back to left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who hurried the delivery on to trap Guptill leg before wicket just 20 minutes before the tea adjournment.

The tourists lost one wicket in the final session when vice-captain Ross Taylor went for 24 when he hung his bat out at a non-threatening ball from Zaheer.

It was a soft dismissal from Taylor, who waited 51 balls before scoring his first boundary.

Earlier, the New Zealanders scored just 75 runs in the session to lunch after the dismissal of Brendon McCullum for four when he edged behind in the fourth over of the innings.


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