MCG was not the only place on Friday, where cricket action took place. While India grappled with the problem of taking Steven Smith’s wicket at Melbourne, Brendon McCullum came up with another whirlwind test knock probably to announce that his score of 188-ball 202 against Pakistan in the third test at Abu Dhabi was no fluke. That was not too long ago as the New Zealand skipper returned to his smashing ways when, chips were down. On the first day of the first test at Hagley Oval, McCullum transformed the game amazingly with a 134-ball 195 that sent Sri Lanka bowlers and fielders scurrying for cover. At another venue in faraway Port Elizabeth, South Africa finished the first day of the second test against the touring West Indians at 270/2 with Faf du Plessis still not out on 99.
Christchurch is one city in New Zealand that was severely affected by earthquake some three years ago. The disaster also destroyed Lancaster Park, the usual cricket venue for test matches in the city. 185 lives were lost and no cricket action took place there since then. Hagley Oval is a small stadium with a capacity to seat 8000 people but yesterday they came in hordes to celebrate the return of cricket to the city. However, New Zealand ran into bad times with Sri Lanka taking 3 wickets for just 88 on the board. That was when Brendon MacCullum walked in. The captain didn’t stay for long; just a session and a half. But that was enough to turn the game on its head. In a record-breaking first-day performance for any venue in the world, McCullum chanced his arms and struck 18 fours in 11 sixes in an innings that lasted 134 balls but was worth 195 in the end. In the process McCullum equaled current batting coach Craig McMillan’s one-over New-Zealand record score of 26 runs by bludgeoning Suranga Lakmal’s 6 balls to three sixes and two fours. Brian Lara still holds the record of scoring 28 in one over. In his test career, McCullum has so far hit 92 sixes and he is inching closer to Adam Gilchrist’s world record of 100 sixes. But personal records aside, McCullum’s innings held bigger value for his team, which progressed from 88/3 to end the day at 429/7 that included 85 from James Neesham and 54 from Kane Williamson.
In St. George Park at South Africa’s Port Elizabeth, the visitors from the Caribbean put the home side in after winning the toss. To South Africa’s credit, they dealt quite well with the overcast conditions and put up 270/2 at close, after a harried pre-lunch session that ended at 68/1. After losing the first test at the Centurion by a massive margin of an innings and 220 runs, West Indies bowled quite well to push the Proteas on the back foot in the initial overs. It would have been a different story if West Indies had fielded well. They dropped at least four catches and missed a simple stumping chance. These lapses allowed South Africa to find their footing. Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis piled up a partnership of 179 for the second wicket and although Elgar got out for 121, he bettered his earlier test century mark. Plessis is still there unbeaten on 99 and must complete the deserving century on Saturday.
Another record was made on Friday by AB de Villiers, who surpassed Adam Gilchrist’s record of 96 consecutive test appearances. De Villiers is now playing the 97th consecutive test match to leave Gilchrist behind. However, AB will have to live with the threat of that record being beaten in near future as New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum has already played 91 consecutive matches and he could be breathing down on his neck soon.