For quite some time, the figure 281 for all Indians was always a number they associated with VVS Laxman and how he, along with Rahul Dravid crafted the historic test win against Australia in 2001. After today, Brendon McCullum's 281* has created mixed emotions to that fond memory for the Indian fans. Brendon McCullum along with Watling has made sure that New Zealand, barring a miracle, will end up winning the test series which will be a thoroughly deserved one, one might add.
After the second day's play, I did write that Indians may well leave New Zealand with a victory under their belt but forget about the victory, they will do well to save this test match from here on. There will be some analysis and discussions on what India could have done differently especially after having New Zealand at 94 for 5 on Day Three but the truth of the matter is that these were two very very special performances by two batsmen under immense pressure to bail their team out.
Comparisons will be made to the famous Indian partnership between Rahul and Laxman against Australia in 2001 when following on and what we witnessed on Monday in New Zealand. There is no doubt that Australia had a far superior attack but you can be rest assured that despite the conditions being favourable for batting in both instances, there was no difference in the amount of pressure between them and the Kiwi pair especially when the goal is to save a test. In 2001, Indians ended up winning the Test on the last day, and India will have to do well here to get out of this one.
Brendon's third double hundred against India, shows how much he enjoys batting against the Indians. I have said this earlier that the McCullum on display this series is a much more patient and responsible player apart from his natural aggression which was demonstrated in his innings. So far he has batted 727 minutes, which is the longest for a New Zealand batsman in an innings and has faced 525 balls, which is the most in one innings by a Kiwi batsman in Tests.
The fact that his tally of 514 is only the sixth instance of a batsman scoring over 500 runs in a two-match series puts into perspective just how well he has played.
In Watling he found a partner who was a perfect foil for him, ready to show a lot of courage and grind. His 124 will now be remembered as one of New Zealand's Test cricket's finest moments which is also the highest score by a Kiwi wicket keeper in the second innings. By the time Watling was out to Shami, the pair was proud owners of a world record of 352 for the sixth wicket.
While the Indians stuck to their task, there was penetration missing at times, and as they got tired, the Kiwis took advantage of it. This has been an extremely disappointing tour for India, and no doubt they will be gutted knowing what a great opportunity this was to get a test win and maybe those dropped chances will pinch. But there are times when you have to give credit where it is due and acknowledge that the opposition was far better.
At 325 ahead it will be interesting to see what Brendon does on Tuesday and when he declares considering he is close to his 300. Having played alongside him, I know he will always put team goals ahead of himself even though they are ahead in the series. Day Four, belonged to the Kiwis — a day of records being broken and many new being created.
For the Indians, the last day of their tour will have them under serious pressure if a declaration comes. It will test the mettle of the young batsmen.
It can only be good for an emerging side if they can draw the game. And it is never easy on the last day of a Test match. Having been ahead for most of this game, the least that they would expect is to finish the tour with a performance that they can be proud of.