McCullum counterattacks after early wickets

Lunch New Zealand 74 for 3 (McCullum 37*, Williamson 8*) v Australia
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Brendon McCullum lost his final toss as New Zealand captain, but counterattacked with the bat © Getty Images

Brendon McCullum launched a bold counterattack in his final Test match after Australia had taken advantage of a lively pitch to pick up three cheap New Zealand wickets on the first morning at Hagley Oval.

Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson and Jackson Bird all bowled demanding spells with the new ball, and had a wicket apiece for their trouble. New Zealand had been tied down at 32 for 3 in 19.4 overs when McCullum arrived, but the overs leading to lunch brought a dramatic change to proceedings.

Taking on the Australian bowlers, McCullum raced to 37 from 18 balls, deflecting some pressure from Kane Williamson and giving Australia’s captain Steven Smith something to think about after a session in which he had claimed a stunning catch to dismiss Henry Nicholls.

As was the case in Wellington, Smith did not hesitate in sending New Zealand in on a pitch even greener than that served up at the Basin Reserve. Hazlewood and Pattinson found extravagant seam movement immediately, leaving Martin Guptill and Tom Latham groping for the new ball.

Guptill was particularly troubled by Pattinson deliveries that cut back into him, and an inside edge squeezed off the body presented a chance to the short leg Joe Burns, who grassed it. Another opportunity was not long in coming, and this time Burns did well to propel himself forward for the catch.

A period of stalemate followed as Williamson and Latham tried to dig in. There were multiple plays and misses, and pressure built through some diligent work by Hazlewood, Pattinson and Bird. Eventually Bird gave Latham one to drive, to which the batsman’s slightly hesitant movement drew an edge towards the slips. It was probably Adam Voges’ catch at first slip, but second-slip Smith removed all doubt by flinging himself brilliantly across for a one-handed classic.

Hazlewood had bowled beautifully without reward, but he now homed in on Nicholls, who had edged a ball going across him on day one in Wellington. This time Hazlewood seamed one back down the line, and pinned Nicholls in front of the off stump. Richard Kettleborough gave it out, and the batsman’s review only confirmed the fact.

All this time Williamson had been battling for survival, his back thigh taking a battering as he was often turned around by seam movement. Sensing momentum needed to change, McCullum walked out with his mind set on attack, and after accepting a gracious guard of honour from the Australians he did exactly that.

McCullum’s first shot flew fortunately over the slips, but he subsequently found his range, and one Mitchell Marsh over was despatched for no fewer than 21 runs including a pair of sixes. The Hagley Oval crowd came to life, and Australia’s grip on proceedings was loosened.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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