CHRISTCHURCH: Brendon McCullum drew the curtain on his illustrious batting career as a typically pugnacious but short-lived innings yesterday was unable to loosen Australia’s firm grip on the second Test in Christchurch.
On an emotional day when players and fans marked the fifth anniversary of the devastating Christchurch earthquake, the captain’s departure in his 101st and final Test left New Zealand staring down the barrel. At the end of the third day New Zealand were 121-4, needing a further 14 to make Australia bat again, but refusing to concede. “It’s 1-0 in the series and we’ve got to go out there and try and win this Test match,” BJ Watling said.
“We’ve just got to try and get a total on the board that we can win the game (with); that’s the ultimate goal.” McCullum arrived for his farewell innings at 72-3 but after 25 off 27 deliveries, the man who hit the fastest ever Test century in the first innings was out.
His second-to-last whack sent Josh Hazlewood for a record-extending 107th six over square leg. But when he danced down the wicket for a repeat performance off the next ball he was caught by David Warner. After Australian captain Steve Smith ran over to shake McCullum’s hand and acknowledge the New Zealand captain’s contribution to the game, he was gone for the last time.
It had been a memorable Test for McCullum with a rollicking 145 in the first innings, reaching his century in a record 54 balls, when he defied the accepted rules of cricket by lashing out on a seaming wicket. After that innings he said what mattered most was winning the Test, but that now seems unlikely.
A magical spell from James Pattinson to rip through New Zealand’s top order gave Australia a sight of victory and a return to the number one world ranking. Kane Williamson was not out 45 at stumps with Corey Anderson on nine.
The Australians posted a formidable 505 in their first innings for a 135-run lead and New Zealand’s attempt to fight back started disastrously when Martin Guptill was caught behind off Pattinson for nought. Pattinson and gloveman Peter Nevill combined again to dismiss Tom Latham with the young opener making a start but unable to kick on. Henry Nicholls made just two before he edged a full delivery from Pattinson to the safe hands of Smith at second slip.
A career-best six wickets for 106 by Neil Wagner had helped engineer an abrupt end to the Australian innings after they reached 464-5 and lost their last five wickets for 41 in 12 overs.
On a pitch offering little for the bowlers, Wagner fired up New Zealand when he removed Australia’s batting goliath Adam Voges in the second over after lunch.
Voges, backing up from a double century in the first innings, had looked in total control until his timing deserted him in an attempt to pull Wagner to the boundary and a leaping Latham grasped the ball at square leg. Voges, out for 60, had seen Australia to a sound position after being set up by Joe Burns (170) and Steve Smith (138).
“We’re in a great spot. To push on past 500 and then take four wickets and them still be behind us, we’re in a good position,” Voges said.
Fans and players, wearing black armbands, paused at 12:51 pm, the exact time the 2011 earthquake struck, for a minute’s silence for the 185 victims of a disaster which destroyed much of Christchurch city centre. – AFP