Vettori shines in rain
Daniel Vettori and Brendon McCullum punished Pakistan on a day on which only 36 overs of play were possible due to rain and bad light in Dunedin. When Vettori bunted Saeed Ajmal for a single minutes into the second session, he beat Shane Warne as the highest run-getter at No. 8. While Warne's 2005 runs came at an average of 19.09 in 91 Tests, Vettori got there in less than half the number of matches with an average of 43.86. Vettori, however, missed becoming the first No. 8 to score back-to-back Tests hundreds by one run.
The pitch seemed to have eased out on the second day, Pakistan went on the defensive too early, and Vettori and McCullum applied themselves remarkably during their 164-run seventh-wicket partnership. The seam bowlers did create a couple of chances, both against McCullum. The first was in the second over of the day when Mohammad Asif induced an outside edge that flew through third slip, a fielding position that was left vacant in order to have a deep point. McCullum had added one to his overnight 25 by then. In the 12th over, Umar Gul got a leading edge that flew over midwicket. Mohammad Aamer and Asif hit the bodies of McCullum and Vettori once each with bouncers. And that's all Pakistan had to cheer about.
All the cheer was in the New Zealand camp with their captain, statistically their best batsman in recent years, leading from the front. Vettori had trouble against the bouncer but anything loose was punished with certainty. Both versions of the cut were on view; the full-blooded one to the left of point, the late one to the right. And when Vettori received one bouncer too many, he upper-cut Aamer over slips.
While Vettori was doing what came naturally to him - good eyes, smart batting, big heart - McCullum had to continue curbing his natural attacking game. He did that just fine in the last hour on the first evening, and improved on the second morning. After that edge early in the day, he tightened his game further. He negated Asif effectively, covering all stumps, taking the lbw and bowled out of the equation by getting outside the line, and using soft hands when playing outside off. The odd over-pitched delivery was driven down the ground mercilessly.
Once Aamer and Asif were played out, with 41 runs added in 10 overs and both batsmen through to their fifties, it became more about accumulation against Saeed Ajmal and Gul. Vettori was involved in a seventh-wicket 100-run partnership for the sixth time but, just when it seemed the duo was close to inflicting irreversible damage, Gul produced - out of nowhere - a yorker in the last over before lunch to send McCullum back.
After the break, though, persistent rain sent the players in and they returned with hands in pockets deep into the final session. In the 4.5 overs possible before bad light ended play for good, Vettori drove nicely through covers, was again dropped at first slip, before missing out on a century. On 99, Vettori looked to cut a full delivery from Gul, and an edge finally went to hand, making sure Gul remained the only centurion in the match. The catcher in this case, Kamran Akmal, was the record-holder along with Vettori for most centuries for a No. 8, with three.