Brendon McCullum led a New Zealand fight-back against England with a run-a-ball 97 to help his side to 208 for six when bad light ended the first day's play of the first Test at Lord's on Thursday.
McCullum, who had seen New Zealand’s top order fail again as they slumped to 109 for five at tea, on a day where rain meant there was no play before lunch, put on 99 for the sixth wicket with Jacob Oram.
But three runs short of what would have been the wicket-keeper’s third Test hundred, McCullum was bowled between bat and pad by a quicker delivery from left-arm spinner Monty Panesar.
Once more he had fallen just short of a century at Lord’s, having scored 96 in the corresponding Test here four years ago.
In all he hit two sixes and 13 fours, after coming in when New Zealand were in dire straits at 41 for three.
At stumps, Oram was 23 not out and New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori unbeaten on five.
Earlier pace bowler James Anderson, after England captain Michael Vaughan had won the toss and decided to field first in overcast, seamer-friendly conditions, took three wickets for 27 runs in his first 10 overs.
“It’s bitter-sweet,” McCullum said. “I’m obviously disappointed not to have made a hundred and still be at the wicket at the moment. Last time I got quite nervous in the nineties, this time I felt quite calm. In the end, I just missed a straight one.”
Assessing the state of the match, he added: “Credit to the bowling team. But for us it’s not a bad day either. With the overhead conditions the way they were, there was a chance we might have been rolled over.”
“If we had been out for 150, there was only one team that could have won the game. To be 208 for six and, arguably, with our two best batsmen at the crease is not a bad position. If we can get to 300 that would be a fantastic effort after losing the toss on that wicket,” said McCullum, whose side were playing their first Test since the retirement of former New Zealand captain and No 3 batsman Stephen Fleming.
McCullum, 26, is renowned as a dynamic one-day batsman. But New Zealand’s plight meant they needed him to stay in as much as score briskly.
“I felt like I had been here before,” McCullum said as he recalled his feelings on walking out to bat. “I worked out after the first over that batting conditions were tough. It meant you could be happy playing an ‘ugly innings’ for a period of time so long as you got runs on the board.”
The vice-captain, 36 not out at tea, completed a 65-ball fifty, his ninth in 33 Tests, with eight fours.
He then brought up a fifty stand in 70 balls with Oram by confidently driving left-arm quick Ryan Sidebottom, who took 24 wickets during England’s 2-1 series win in New Zealand in March, down the ground.