WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Brendon McCullum was unsure of the magnitude of the task he was attempting when he walked on to the Basin Reserve on the fifth day of the second test against India with the opportunity to become the first New Zealander to score a test triple century.
The 32-year-old McCullum had started the day on 281 not out, the second highest individual score by a New Zealand batsman with Martin Crowe’s 299 in sight and a moderate crowd in nervously expectant mood.
After four days of brilliant sunshine, the fifth day at the boutique-sized ground began under heavy overcast skies, suggesting India’s pace bowlers could exploit the conditions to their advantage.
The crowd added to the anticipation with loud clapping with every ball, and over, McCullum survived and were in raptures with every run as he ticked steadily towards the milestone.
“I wasn’t too bad until I saw the size of the crowd then every ball that I defended, left or got a single they would start cheering and it made me a little bit more nervous,” McCullum told reporters after the match ended in a draw and clinched the series for New Zealand 1-0.
“That’s probably when I understood the magnitude of the task at hand and the immense joy it gives fans of this cricket team to see guys succeed and see records broken.”
McCullum reached the mark when he dabbed Zaheer Kahn behind square for his 32nd boundary and immediately raised his arms in celebration as the crowd roared and rose to their feet in thunderous applause that rolled around and around the Basin Reserve for more than a minute.
“When 300 came up and the applause was ongoing for quite a while is really when it hit home to me that it was quite a significant achievement for a New Zealander,” he added.
“I’ll certainly remember that for the rest of my life.”
He was the 24th player to score a triple century in tests and it was the 28th time someone had achieved the mark.
World record holder Brian Lara, Virender Sehwag, Chris Gayle and Don Bradman all did it twice.
McCullum denied he had tears in his eyes when he achieved the mark stating with a grin “I‘m from South Dunedin mate” in reference to the predominantly working class suburbs of the South Island’s second-largest city.
“I watched Martin Crowe score his 299 and thought it would have been an amazing feat if he scored 300 but probably didn’t quite understand how much it meant to the whole country,” McCullum added in reference to Crowe’s 1991 innings against Sri Lanka on the same ground.
”I saw Martin on (breakfast television) this morning and he was discussing how significant it would be.
“I guess that was one of the things that made me realise how big a moment it would be.”
McCullum’s marathon innings of more than 12 and a half hours ended two balls after he reached the milestone when he feathered a catch off Zaheer to Mahendra Singh Dhoni and he received another round of raucous applause as he walked off.
The captain, however, seemed more pleased with the contributions of wicketkeeper BJ Watling (124) and debutant Jimmy Neesham (137 not out) and the fact they had managed to save the test to win the series.
“It was what was required,” he added.
”Thankfully I had partners at the other end who played brilliant innings. I thought BJ and Neesh, their innings were outstanding.
”We were obviously scrapping to save the test and therefore win the series and we managed to get some partnerships under pressure and then kept batting and batting and batting.
“So yeah it was pretty satisfying to get us out of trouble and claim the series win.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Ken Ferris/Amlan Chakraborty