New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum stubbornly provided a glimmer of hope for his side on the third day of the second Test against India as he battled to his ninth Test century to thwart the visitors' push for a series-levelling victory.
McCullum, troubled with what appeared to be injuries to his left shoulder and right elbow, blasted the first six of his innings over long on off Ishant Sharma to bring up the milestone about 45 minutes before the end of play.
The 32-year-old McCullum was 114 not out at stumps having shared in an unbroken 158-run partnership with wicketkeeper BJ Watling that stalled India's drive for victory at the Basin Reserve.
Watling was on 52, his seventh Test half century, as the hosts finished the day on 252 for five, a lead of six runs but with two days remaining and fine weather forecast the odds are still stacked heavily in India's favour to level the series after New Zealand won the first Test by 40 runs.
"It was hard work out there," McCullum told Radio Sport. "I thought they bowled brilliantly and at five for 90 (odd), things weren't looking so good.
"Thankfully BJ and I put together a partnership which was undefeated at the end of the day."
Corey Anderson was the only wicket to fall during the final two sessions, having joined McCullum at the resumption of play following the lunch break after New Zealand had slumped to 87 for four in the final over of the morning session.
Anderson had tried to work Ravindra Jadeja into the leg-side only to get a leading edge and it ballooned back to the left-arm spinner.
Anderson's dismissal reduced the hosts to 94 for five and in danger of not seeing out a sun-drenched day, before Watling and McCullum dropped anchors and took their side through two sessions to ensure they would be back for a fourth day.
The normally free-flowing McCullum faced 237 balls and had been batting for just under six hours while Watling was even more obdurate with his 52 coming from 208 deliveries. He had been at the crease for more than four hours.
"It's what the team required and as captain that's what you try and achieve," McCullum added. "You're not always going to do it, but you have to try and work your game to the situation.
"I was just pleased to get through to the end of the day with five down. We have got a lot more ground to cover tomorrow."
New Zealand had resumed the day on 24 for one, a deficit of 222 runs, and slumped further into the mire when Zaheer Khan grabbed two early wickets to put India firmly in charge of the match.
The 35-year-old left-armer had the ball move slightly away off the seam to catch the thinnest of outside edges of both Kane Williamson (seven) and Hamish Rutherford (35) to reduce the hosts to 52 for three inside the first hour.
Debutant Tom Latham was then dismissed by Mohammed Shami in the final over before lunch for 29, having avoided the dreaded pair in his first Test when he punched Zaheer through point for two runs.
India must win the match to level the two-Test series after New Zealand won the first game at Eden Park by 40 runs and McCullum said he felt while the visitors were still in the ascendancy the match could still turn the home side's way.
"Being five down was key for us," he said. "If we had been six or seven down I think the test was over.
"It was a big couple of hours at the end of the day there."
At the start of Day 3 of the second Test, it looked to be an easy victory for India but thanks to brilliant unbeaten century from skipper Brendon McCullum New Zealand are still batting at 252 for five in 99 overs when stumps were drawn.
But the hosts are still not away from danger as they just hold a slender lead of six runs but the way they fought back in this Test certainly needs a pat on their back.
Earlier in the day, Zaheer Khan made early inroads taking two wickets to take his tally to three. Mohammed Shami and Ravindra Jadeja captured a wicket each but McCullum was determined to bail out New Zealand as he shared an unbroken 158-run partnership with Bradley-John Watling, who is batting on 52.
It's half century for Watling as New Zealand cross 200. NZ 251-5 in 96 overs.
What a way to get to his century. Gets his second century in this series with a fine six off Sharma. Well done Brendon. NZ 230-8 in 88 overs.
India take the new ball as New Zealand reach the 200. The parternship also crosses 100. A great fightback this is turning out to be. NZ 209-5 in 82 overs.
Partnership reaches 79 for the duo as they are working really hard to bail out the Kiwis. NZ 173-5 in 71 overs.
McCullum reaches to a deserving half century. A great knock again when New Zealand needed it the most. NZ 158-5 in 68 overs.
oh that's a bad miss. Ishant Sharma dros a catch off his own bowling off McCullum. NZ 132-5 in 55 overs.
New Zealand trail by still 125 runs as McCullum is batting on 30. NZ 121-5 in 50 overs.
McCullum fighting hard on 27 while Watling is on 14 as the duo share a crucial 23-run stand. NZ 117-5 in 47 overs.
India strikes immediately after lunch. Jadeja this time as he takes the catch off his own bowling. NZ 94-5 in 39 overs.
Corey Anderson c & b Jadeja 2 (6b 0x4 0x6)
Shami strikes as the teams go for lunch. Just the wicket India needed at the strike of the break. NZ 8-4 in 34.1 overs.
Tom Latham c Dhoni b Mohammed Shami 29 (64b 3x4 0x6)
Latham and McCullum stitching together a careful partnership. Crucial for New Zealand. NZ 84-3 in 32 overs.
India will look for another couple before they break for lunch. Skipper McCullum has a big responsibility here to bail out the hosts. NZ 57-3 in 20 overs.
Zaheer Khan is on a roll here. Picks up his third wicket. A beauty takes the edge of Rutherford to Dhoni. NZ 52-3 in 17 overs.
Hamish Rutherford c Dhoni b Khan 35 (55b 6x4 0x6)
Indian pacers are bowling a very disciplined line. Latham and Rutherford ensuring they don't give away their wickets. NZ 41-2 in 15 overs.
Zaheer Khan picks his first wicket of the day to add another to his tally to make it two wickets. Early break has put New Zealand on the back seat. NZ 27-2 in 10.4 overs.
Kane Williamson c Dhoni b Khan 7 (22b 0x4 0x6)
Ishant Sharma begins the proceedings on Day 3. He has been the best bowler for India so far. India hope that he would continue doing the same as they eye a rare win. NZ 27-1 in 10 overs.
New Zealand face an uphill to prevent India from drawing the two-match series when they resume on 24-1 in their second innings on day three of the second Test in Wellington on Sunday.
A maiden century to Ajinkya Rahane boosted India to a formidable 246-run first innings lead over New Zealand.
India were all out late in the day for 438 in reply to New Zealand’s 192, with Rahane’s 118 backed by 98 from Shikhar Dhawan and 68 from skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
At stumps, after facing nine overs, New Zealand were 24-1 in their second innings still trailing by 222 runs, with Hamish Rutherford not out on 18 and Kane Williamson on four.
Peter Fulton went for one, lbw to Zaheer Khan.
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