On this day: B-Mac's historic triple
We look back at Brendon McCullum's marathon triple-century in Wellington, the highest Test score ever by a New Zealander
18 February 2019, 07:10 PM AEST
Brendon McCullum might've been lauded for his deeds as a T20 legend after he played his last BBL match for the Brisbane Heat earlier this month, but it was in a Test match on this very day five years ago that the New Zealander enjoyed arguably his finest cricket moment.
McCullum was a little over a year into his tenure as Test captain, during which he – now famously – set about realigning the Black Caps' ethos with that of their countrymen, a philosophical work in progress based on respect and a never-say-die attitude that hit its apogee another 12 months on, as the nation celebrated a maiden appearance in a cricket World Cup final.
But first came India.
MS Dhoni's side was on the North Island for a two-Test series in February 2014 and were favourites to overcome the hosts, but a thrilling win in Auckland – off the back of a McCullum double-hundred – had given the Kiwis an unlikely one-nil series lead.
The two teams headed to Wellington's Basin Reserve and suddenly it was New Zealand with the wind in their sails; the Eden Park triumph was a third-straight win after 10 matches without success. McCullum later conceded he had been distracted by the ill-timed public airing of the Chris Cairns match-fixing affair, in which he had provided evidence to the ICC.
But after his 224 in the first Test, he was also at the beginning of the most fruitful year of his Test career.
For New Zealand however, the second Test didn't exactly unfold according to plan. The hosts were rolled for 192 after being sent in, and were then forced to spend more than a day in the field as India racked up 438 to boast a first-innings lead of 246.
"Whatever fight we plan overnight doesn't look likely to eventuate at the beginning of day three," wrote McCullum in his autobiography, Declared.
"We're three down for bugger all when I walk to the crease, and try to right the ship with Tom Latham. He goes with our total at 87, and then Corey (Anderson) is caught and bowled by (Ravi) Jadeja for two and we're really in the sh-t at five for 94."
What followed was the longest innings by a New Zealander in Test history, and the ninth-longest overall; a near 13-hour marathon that saved a Test and inspired a nation.
This, from the same man who hit 158 not out in the first-ever Indian Premier League match, from just 73 balls.
For more than two days the Kiwis skipper stuck to his task, finding outstanding support in first BJ Watling and then debutant Jimmy Neesham, both of whom rode McCullum's history-making slipstream to record-breaking feats of their own (Watling's 124 was part of a world record stand for the sixth wicket, while Neesham's 137no was the highest score by a Test debutant batting seven or lower).
By stumps on day four, he was still there, unbeaten on 281, having arrived before the first drinks break on day three. Most importantly, he had negotiated his team to a lead of 325, all but assuring a second-consecutive series triumph.
But there was also history to be made. At that point, no New Zealander had scored a Test triple hundred, the late Martin Crowe having come closest with 299, also at the Basin Reserve, cruelly succumbing one run short when he tried to run the ball to the third man boundary and was caught behind.
"It's not until I wake up the next morning and turn on the TV that I have any real inkling what is waiting for me," McCullum wrote.
"Martin Crowe is on breakfast TV talking about how much a score of 300 will mean to New Zealand.
"I didn't really know it was that big a deal, probably because milestones have never been my gig.
"Then we get to the ground and everyone's asking, 'How are you feeling?'
"Then we're out doing our warm-ups … and just for a second I turn around and clock the stands and the grassy banks of the Basin. Man, there are a lot of people here! An hour before kick-off on the last day of the Test match! Then I start hearing people yelling out to me. And I see the signs they're carrying and the numbers still pouring through the gate.
"Back in the changing room, I have one last durry and walk out there with Jimmy. All the guys are clapping us out.
"As I step towards the boundary rope, I take a moment, look at the crowd, and I get it that they've come to see a bit of history.
"Jeez, no pressure!"
McCullum made his way – somewhat scratchily, and perhaps understandably, a little tiredly – to 298.
Then a half-opportunity presented itself, and he didn't hesitate.
"The ball probably isn't there to be hit, but I try to back cut it," he wrote. "It goes through to the fence and I'm 302.
"The next five minutes I'll never forget. The crowd won't stop cheering, won't sit down."
McCullum was out two balls later, but it didn't matter. The Test was saved, the series won, and a legend was created.