Hyderabad:Brendon McCullum reaped rewards for his hard work on day four, milking a tired bowling unit to get to the third-highest score in second innings in Tests in India. The game was headed for a draw the moment Zaheer Khan left the field again - he had been out of action for a good part of the fourth day due to an abdominal strain - after bowling just three overs in the morning session.
New Zealand, the No. 8 side in the world, have now held India, the No. 1 side, to four consecutive draws; in two of those India have done the surviving. India, who seemed to have given up surprisingly early in the morning, have now conceded 400 or more in at least one innings of their last seven Tests.
There were two outside chances for the game to come to life, but both were duly thwarted. Cheteshwar Pujara dropped McCullum at forward short leg when the batsman was 148, and the lead 185. That was the only chance Harbhajan Singh had created in 26 overs until then.
The next time Harbhajan created an opportunity, some excitement was manufactured, with Kane Williamson given out lbw erroneously to an offbreak certain to miss the leg stump. Williamson was on his way to becoming only the seventh man to begin his Test career with back-to-back centuries. He had survived the tense moments last evening, started the day with three boundaries in the first over, and then settled in for an innings full of his trademark back-foot punches.
When he got out, though, New Zealand were 223 ahead, and there were 57 overs to go. For those who hope or fear too much, a collapse could still direct the game towards a result. McCullum and Daniel Vettori, though, took 20 runs off the next four overs to disappoint the hopeful and the fearful.
It may have seemed like milking because of the ease with which McCullum got his runs, but he did it with some style and nonchalance. India tried to pack the leg side and bowled round the wicket, only to see him casually reverse-sweep them for boundaries. They were not exactly reverse-sweeps, he was so confident he just bent the knees half way and guided them past point. His maiden double-hundred he brought up with the "McScoop", having scored his last 24 runs off 19 balls. That spell of hitting also included a six over long-off off Pragyan Ojha and two reverse-swept fours off Suresh Raina.
As McCullum's good friend and former Kolkata Knight Riders team-mate Chris Gayle moved assuredly towards a triple-century in Galle, a triple was on here in Hyderabad too. There were 32 overs to go to the start of the mandatory overs, and there was no way New Zealand were going to declare without letting him have a go at the highest score by a New Zealander - 299 by Martin Crowe.
Hence McCullum's charge towards the record books. He reversed-swept another boundary, played the chip over midwicket, crashed Sreesanth back past him, and then cut him furiously to get to 225.
It was after this that Sreesanth achieved slight personal redemption, removing McCullum with a slower legbreak. Then he bounced Tim Southee, who had hit him three times with bouncers when he was batting. Some softening-up and eye-balling later, Sreesanth bowled Southee.
Perhaps to keep their tail away from any more bouncers, New Zealand declared during tea, and bowled 17 overs before the last hour. Virender Sehwag, usually bored in such situations, helped himself to a quick fifty, giving the crowd some entertainment.
# Brendon McCullum, during the course of his double-century, went past his previous highest of 185 against Bangladesh at Hamilton in 2010.
# McCullum's double-century was only the second by a New Zealand batsman in India and is third on the list of top scores by New Zealand batsmen against India.
# McCullum's double-century is the fifth in the team second innings in India. The highest is VVS Laxman's 281 at Kolkata in 2001.
# Harbhajan Singh has conceded 305 runs and picked up six wickets at an average over 50 in the series so far. On the other hand, he has scored 295 runs with two centuries.
# Gautam Gambhir scored his first runs in the second innings after three ducks in his previous three outings.
# Virender Sehwag scored his first second innings half-century since November 2009, when he made 51 against Sri Lanka at Ahmedabad. He averages just over 30 in the second innings and over 70 in the first innings.