New Zealand vs. India: Winners and Losers from 2nd Test in Wellington
New Zealand somehow managed to draw the second Test against India at Wellington on Tuesday to record a surprise 1-0 series win over M.S. Dhoni's side, with Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum understandably making all the headlines.
The brilliant middle-order batsman became the first Black Caps player to make a Test triple century in his side's second innings rear guard, and we now look back at the contest by revealing who the winners and losers from the past five days of thrilling action at the Basin Reserve have been.
Well it would be amiss really to start anywhere else other than with the man of the match from the second Test, New Zealand's inspirational skipper Brendon McCullum.
The 32-year-old had already been named player of the match after scoring 224 in the home side's stunning win in the opening encounter in Auckland last week.
However, McCullum was clearly intent on making sure the Black Caps recorded their first series win over India since 2003 by not only making his highest-ever Test score of 302 but by also becoming the first-ever New Zealander to score a triple century.
In the process, the stumper now has the honour of being in possession of the highest-ever score made by a Kiwi in Test cricket, beating the 299 that his hero Martin Crowe made against Sri Lanka on the same ground in 1991.
And just for the record, McCullum's marathon innings lasted all of 775 minutes and 559 balls, while it also contained the small matter of just the 32 fours and four sixes.
A Test of Two Innings for Inconsistent Ishant
Talk about the lanky paceman blowing hot and cold in this Test, although Ishant Sharma has tended to frustrate like that throughout his up-and-down career to date.
In the first innings, the 25-year-old recorded his best-ever figures of six for 51—his fifth five-wicket haul in 55 Tests—to help skittle the home side out for just 192 after India had won the toss and elected to field, with the fast bowler consistently pitching the ball up nicely on a full length and getting his just rewards by catching the outside edge of the bat.
However, by the time that conditions had flattened out second time around and a little more guile and imagination were needed in order to prise batsmen from the crease, then Ishant suddenly looked a completely different, and far less penetrating bowler.
And second-innings figures of no wicket for 164 at just under four runs an over from your opening bowler when you are going all out to win a Test match are not exactly what the doctor called for, especially when compared to his partner Zaheer Khan, who took five for 170.
New Zealand's pugnacious wicketkeeper B.J. Watling scored his third century in just his 21st Test match in the second innings at the Basin Reserve, without which his captain would not have been able to create history at the other end.
However, the 28-year-old is a more than capable replacement for his skipper behind the stumps, while his middle-to-late order batting should not be underestimated either, as India have just discovered to their cost.
Watling came to the wicket on day three with the Test seemingly all but over as the Black Caps still trailed the tourists by 151 runs with just five wickets in hand, only for he and McCullum to then share in a Test-best 352-run partnership for the sixth wicket.
And not only that, but the two men, whose incredible stand lasted for 123 overs, also recorded the third-highest partnership for any wicket in the history of New Zealand cricket, with Watling's contribution being a personal-best 124.
Tourists Happy to Be Jinksed for Once
Much has been written and spoken about the prodigious talents of youngster Ajinkya Rahane for some time now, although the player himself has been forced to wait patiently in the wings as gradually one by one the great line of Indian batting legends decided to call it a day.
However, finally the 25-year-old was handed his opportunity against Australia in Delhi last March, and now the Mumbai-born No 6 has repaid the faith that the Indian selectors have shown in him by scoring his maiden ton in just his fifth Test match.
And what is more, Rahane's first-innings 118 in Wellington - the highest score made by any Indian in the Test series - was a brilliant knock, coming off only 158 balls at an impressive strike-rate of 74.68, with 17 fours and a maximum.
So do not be surprised at all if you now hear a lot more of Jinks in the coming months and years ...
A Dream Debut to Remember
Well, young Jimmy Neesham must be sitting back now and wondering what all the fuss is about Test match cricket after his debut in the second Test at Wellington.
The 23-year-old managed his side's second-highest score in their disappointing first innings by making 33 useful late-order runs, before then cleaning up Rohit Sharma—who has a Test average of 56—for a duck when it came to his time with the ball.
However, after producing New Zealand's most economical bowling figures in their first innings, Neesham's dream bow was then completed when he made an unbeaten century in the Kiwis' second-innings fight back.
And Neesham's 137 not out not only helped the Black Caps register a world-record total for the third innings in a Test, but it was also the highest-ever score made by a debutant batting at No 8.
Dhoni's Days Appear Numbered
India skipper M.S. Dhoni’s position is sure to now come under increased scrutiny back home following his side's failure to finish off New Zealand in the second innings at the Basin Reserve and claim a series-levelling victory.
Time to say good bye to MS Dhoni the Test captain http://t.co/LA5t1HOnfn— IBN Sports (@IBNLiveSports) February 18, 2014
As it is, the tourists could only manage a draw in the second Test and so ended up losing the series 1-0 against a team that they were expected to brush aside easily.
However, when you have not won a single Test match overseas since 2011, then maybe Dhoni and Co. should start re-evaluating their targets when playing away from the subcontinent.
And with India now set to lose their No. 2 position in the International Cricket Council rankings to a resurgent Australia and Dhoni's captaincy having been made to look conservative in the extreme in comparison to his more vibrant and imaginative opposite number in this series, the captain may soon find himself relegated to just keeping wicket for his country.
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