WELLINGTON: An epic triple century by Brendon McCullum in a record-laden innings took New Zealand from the brink of a Test defeat to a remarkable series win over India on Tuesday.
The second Test petered out in a draw with India on 166-3 in their second innings after being set a near-impossible target of 435 in 67 overs.
Shikhar Dhawan (two), Murali Vijay (seven) and Cheteshwar Pujara (17) fell quickly after lunch, giving New Zealand a faint hope of victory.
But Virat Kohli buried that notion as he progressed to 105, his sixth Test century, with Rohit Sharma on 31. Tim Southee took 2-50 for New Zealand.
It was a miserable tour for cricket powerhouse India, who won every toss against lowly New Zealand yet lost the ODI series 4-0 and now the Test series 1-0.
It was an unimaginable outcome midway through the second Test, when the odds were stacked heavily in India’s favour to square the series after losing the first Test by 40 runs.
The most celebrated New Zealand effort was McCullum’s 302, the first triple century by a New Zealander. He fought off pain from back and shoulder injuries during a marathon 13-hour performance.
McCullum went to the middle at 52-3 on the third day and an hour later, when Watling joined him, New Zealand were 94-5 with ominous signs of an early defeat.
But the two batsmen with a reputation for flamboyance knuckled down to play with the diligence they recalled from their time as openers many years earlier.
They slowly and carefully took New Zealand to 246-5 to avoid an innings defeat and on to 680-8 declared, New Zealand’s highest Test total, just before lunch on day five.
As the toll rose Dhoni’s face dropped. Hopes of his world number two side snatching a face-saving win disappeared in a series of well-placed ones and twos and the occasional boundary.
McCullum was dropped on nine by Kohli and on 36 by Ishant Sharma, chances India would deeply regret as the New Zealand captain took the game away from them.
In a match of milestones, McCullum became the 24th player to score a triple century, and he eclipsed the previous best by a New Zealander, 299 set by Martin Crowe 23 years ago.
McCullum and Watling, who made a career-best 124, set a world-record sixth-wicket Test stand of 352, and Neesham finished unbeaten on 137, a world record for a number eight batsman on debut.
McCullum became just the third man after illustrious Australian Don Bradman and England’s Wally Hammond in the 1930s to score double and triple tons in consecutive Tests.
BRIEF SCORES: New Zealand 192 (Ishant 6-51, Shami 4-70) and 680 for 8 decl. (McCullum 302, Neesham 137*, Watling 124, Zaheer 5-170) drew with India 438 (Rahane 118, Dhawan 98, Dhoni 68, Southee 3-93) and 166 for 3 (Kohli 105*, Southee 2-50)