McCullum gutted after dramatic draw
Heartbreak and pride were among the mixed emotions Brendon McCullum felt after England defied New Zealand in a dramatic finale to a Test series that was drawn 0-0.
The Black Caps looked favourites for large parts of the last encounter at Auckland, even with 19 deliveries to go as Monty Panesar entered the fray following Kane Williamson’s two wickets in an over.
But he and Matt Prior, who ended unbeaten on 110, repelled the home bowlers to ensure England became only the third side to bat out the final day having entered it four wickets down; they ended 315 for nine.
That a series the tourists were expected to win came to such a conclusion was testament to New Zealand’s impressive efforts - something that at least offered solace to skipper McCullum.
“That’s heartbreaking,” said McCullum. “We’ve played some brilliant cricket throughout the series, but especially in this Test, and dictated terms from day one.
“We gave it every chance to force a result but came up against a defiant England team who were hell-bent on ensuring they did not lose a Test for their country - and unfortunately we weren’t able to get that one more wicket.
“I’ll make sure I go round all the lads. I’m incredibly proud of the way they’ve performed in this series and confronted one of the giants of world cricket.”
New Zealand began the three-match series as rank outsiders, having been trounced 2-0 by world number ones South Africa at the start of this year.
“Obviously there’s disappointment, but it’s nice to know some progress has been made,” added McCullum. “That’s why you play cricket - it’s an unbelievable feeling.
“The last day has been incredible. It’s everything you dream about when you are growing up, to be able to be in the park with your team-mates trying to bowl your team to a Test win.
“It’s a great feeling. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get it, but it was a magnificent Test match - and we played our part.”
Prior had several moments of fortune in his 182-ball innings, which encompassed important stands with Ian Bell, whose 271-ball 75 was equally impressive, Stuart Broad and finally Panesar.
His strangest escape came on 28 when he deflected a short ball from Neil Wagner down on to his stumps, only to see the bails stay intact.
McCullum joked that Prior must be a model citizen to have luck like that go his way.
“I think Matty’s lived pretty clean!” he said. “There were twists and turns and half-chances - little things you look back on and think ’if only’.
“But I guess that all added to the drama. Take nothing away from the way Matt played - I thought it was an incredible innings, played under severe pressure. He stood up and showed why he’s the player he is.”
New Zealand never gave up hope, though, and fancied their chances when Panesar had to take guard with more than three overs still remaining.
“Yes, of course we did,” said McCullum. “Kane (Williamson) had one ball to him, which he could easily have chopped on to the stumps. Then we had that last over with Trent (Boult), and I thought we were a red-hot chance.
“But they found a way out. We were one ball away from winning a Test match. We gave it a red-hot crack, and it didn’t quite go our way.”
McCullum, meanwhile, could also reflect positively on the efforts of 34-year-old opener Peter Fulton, who - having endured a long spell out of the side - struck his first and second Test centuries in the clash.
“Outstanding,” he said. “I’m absolutely delighted for Peter. It's a lovely story - a guy who had a crack at Test cricket, found himself on the outside for a while, and for him to play as well as he did was a great story.”