New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum praised left-arm pace bowler Neil Wagner for helping his side beat India by 40 runs in the first Test yesterday even though he who was named man of the match for his first-innings double-century.
McCullum scored 224 in the first innings to anchor New Zealand’s 501, which proved to be just enough when India’s captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni threatened to snatch a win with an aggressive approach after tea on the fourth day.
“Definitely nervous times, right the way through that run chase,” McCullum said in a televised interview after India had been bowled out 366 while chasing 407 for victory. “They acquitted themselves immensely well in that second innings and put us under an immense amount of pressure.”
Wagner took four wickets at crucial times yesterday as the hosts dismissed India after tea on the fourth day at Eden Park.
“He hasn’t had a lot of luck in the last 12 or 18 months in terms of getting wickets, but I think he thoroughly deserved those wickets today,” McCullum said. “He probably turned the game... I think [his] performance typified everything that was going well for the side and I was delighted that he got some rewards.”
India looked to be in control for much of the match as Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan crafted a 126-run partnership that left them well-placed after lunch to seal the victory in the final session.
However, Wagner then dismissed Kohli for 67 and got Dhawan to nick behind to wicketkeeper BJ Watling for 115 before New Zealand took the second new ball just before tea and grabbed a wicket either side of the break to give them the upper hand.
“We lost wickets at crucial times,” Dhoni said of his team’s run chase.
While McCullum praised Wagner, his double century set up their ability to attack the Indians when they batted, bowling the visitors out for 202, but he chose not to enforce the follow on, which caused debate among pundits and fans.
He said the decision was made with input from the bowlers and senior players, and one he knew many would second-guess.
“Everyone has their own opinions and at the end of the day you have to make a decision. You live and die by those decisions and thankfully we’re living at the moment,” McCullum added.