CHRISTCHURCH – New Zealand opening batsman Brendon McCullum flys Sri Lanka on Boxing Day with the fastest Test century in New Zealand Test history.
Not content with that, he targeted the record for the quickest double ton and fell five runs short.
He created severe pressure on the bowlers and fed off the resulting inconsistency to ensure that all four 50-plus scores in 2014 were turned into massive centuries – 224, 302, 202 and 195. The rest of the side played in his image and even an out-of-form James Neesham found fluency such that the fifth wicket partnership produced 153 runs in 117 balls.
New Zealand finished on 429 for 7 in the 80th over – the most they have ever made in a day’s Test cricket – having maintained a run-rate of 6.63 in the final session despite McCullum’s exit. Neesham was the prime reason for that, exploiting his strength to pepper the long-on boundary during an innings of 85 off 80 balls.
Sri Lanka played into McCullum’s strengths as well, seduced into bowling a short by the ample carry on offer at Hagley Oval. McCullum slashed through point whether there was width or not and pulled despite two men lurking in the deep. His front-foot play would not be outdone either and a vicious six over long-off crowned him as the first New Zealander to score 1000 Test runs in a calendar year.
Sri Lanka’s attempt to stifle him by spin backfired as well, with McCullum constantly running at 21-year old debutant Tharindu Kaushal and refusing to let him settle. Having practiced against slow bowling, he felt at ease stepping down against the quicks as well and Lakmal felt the brunt, going for 26 runs in an over, the joint-fourth worst in Test history.
New Zealand’s first Boxing Day Test in 11 years, and Christchurch’s first in eight, was well attended and McCullum’s bullish knock was exactly what the crowd wanted. It isn’t often that batsmen can challenge Vivian Richards for swagger, but McCullum’s was almost tangible every time he decided to attack and that was often as 18 fours and 11 sixes suggest. That he was munching on a piece of gum and preying on the confidence of fast bowlers was the cherry on top. Like the West Indian, he has a terrific captaincy record – undefeated in six out of eight series – and has led New Zealand to the perfect start into the home summer.
Things had seemed promising at the toss for Sri Lanka, with Angelo Mathews having all of his first-choice seamers fit. The pitch had been quite green in the lead-up to the Test, but much of the grass was removed on match day though, leaving Shaminda Eranga, Suranga Lakmal and Dhammika Prasad to count a bit more on their patience.
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