The sprinter had now become the marathon man. On display were pride, passion and resolve. The crowd roared and a Kiwi barrier was broken.
Skipper Brendon McCullum kept his date with history by notching up the first triple century – a lasting edifice of monumental patience and skill - in Tests by a New Zealander at the Basin Reserve here on Tuesday.
And his team shut India out of the second Test to take the two-Test series 1-0 on the fifth day.
Chasing an improbable 435 in a minimum of 67 overs, India finished at 166 for three. The Test concluded in a draw at the beginning of the mandatory overs.
For India, there was a consolation hundred by Virat Kohli – a fluent 105 not out - but the side had only itself to blame for not closing out the Test when it had an opportunity to do so.
Earlier, McCullum’s spirit-lifting 559-ball 302 and debutant James Neesham’s impressive unbeaten 137 helped New Zealand declare at 680 for eight, the country’s highest total in Tests.
While it can be argued that McCullum could have declared earlier to make the final day more interesting, New Zealand, already 1-0, had good reasons for its cautious approach.
It was a more challenging day for batting. There was a cloud cover and strong winds blew across the ground, assisting movement. The batsmen’s judgment of the line had to be better.
The Indians were rocked soon after lunch. Shikhar Dhawan, though, was unlucky to be at the wrong end of a leg-before verdict when he padded up to one that straightened from left-arm paceman Trent Boult. Replays revealed that the ball would have gone over the stumps.
Murali Vijay nicked an away swinger from Tim Southee to be held in the cordon. India was under pressure at 10 for two.
Pujara appeared comfortable in the middle but should have displayed better technique while coping with a lifter angled across him by Southee. He gloved the delivery to the ‘keeper.
The wheel had come a full circle in the Test. Hunting for an elusive away win; the Indians were now fighting for survival.
Rub of the green
Kohli had the rub of the green early on. The right-hander edged Boult to ‘keeper Watling but umpire Steve Davis ruled him not out.
He then proceeded to play some crisp strokes, straight-driving, cover-driving and pulling with authority.
Rohit Sharma, playing a drive too soon, was put down by bowler Southee. He settled down, offering support to the free-stroking Kohli. The two put on an unbeaten 112 for the fourth wicket.
Plenty of drama was on view earlier.
It was a Tuesday but the stands were packed in anticipation of McCullum’s history-making 300. Among the spectators was the New Zealand captain’s father Stu.
McCullum did not allow the approaching milestone to cloud his thinking. He flicked Ishant to the fence and then pulled Zaheer.
There was, however, a heart-stopping moment for the Kiwi captain when he nicked Zaheer just short of a diving Dhoni. A collective sigh of relief echoed around the ground.
MuCullum regained composure and pulled Ishant past the ropes. The spectators were on their feet.
And when he created width to cut Zaheer, McCullum raised his arms to celebrate a glorious moment in the Kiwi cricket history.
He had gone part Martin Crowe’s 299 against Sri Lanka at the same venue in 1990-91.
Soon, McCullum was snared outside-off by Zaheer. He walked back to a richly deserved standing ovation.
McCullum and Neesham had put together 179 for the seventh wicket to snuff out any Indian hopes of an attainable chase.
Neesham, just 23, batted with rare maturity on his debut. In the team as a pace-bowling all-rounder, his methods pleased the eye.
The left-hander played according to the length of the ball. Much of his driving down the ground and through the covers was immaculate. And he played the bowlers through mid-wicket; when they erred in line.
On occasions, when the ball was dropped short, he cut or pulled depending on the line.
A strong man, he brought his willow down from a high back-lift to time Zaheer straight and ease Ishant through covers. His was an outstanding century on debut.
Zaheer scalped five but India, as a bowling unit, proved to be a huge let down.