CHRISTCHURCH • New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum insisted the time was right to quit international cricket yesterday, despite his record-breaking century in the first innings.
It was not the way the 34-year-old wanted to retire, as Australia completed a 2-0 series sweep, winning the second Test by seven wickets. But McCullum did mark his swan-song in trademark fashion, setting records for the fastest century and the most sixes in Test history (107).
When the match ended, with an Adam Voges four getting Australia to the 201 they needed for victory, there were emotional scenes as McCullum led his side from Christchurch's tree-lined Hagley Oval. Australian captain Steve Smith, not out 53, ran over to shake McCullum's hand.
When New Zealand had needed patience to occupy the crease for long periods of time to save the Test, McCullum refused to hold back his natural aggression. He smashed a first-innings 145 in 79 balls, including the first-ever 54-ball century, and a rapid 25 off 27 in the second innings. But despite his own heroics, the result did not turn out as McCullum wanted in his 101st and final Test.
"It's not the ideal way to go out but at the same time, I've had a great time," he said.
As he shut down his international career, there were no tears from McCullum, although he was moved by a guard of honour from the Australians. He has been sidelined by a back injury recently and he said he knew it was "time to move on".
"I came to that realisation when I made the decision and I knew I could steel myself for another couple of challenges," he said. "Hopefully I've left and brought some fun and enjoyment and some real culture back into the set-up in the time that I've had as captain."
Reflecting on his career, McCullum said he now felt relieved it was all over. He finished his Test career with 6,453 runs at an average of 38.64. He scored 12 centuries and 31 half-centuries.
His swashbuckling style has produced multiple records. He is the only New Zealander to score a triple century, with 302 against India two years ago. He also holds the record for the most consecutive Tests, and he is New Zealand's second-most successful captain with a winning percentage of 35.48, behind Geoff Howarth's 36.66.
In Twenty20 internationals, where his big hitting was crucial, he holds world records for the most runs (2,140), most centuries (two), most 50s (15), most sixes (91) and most fours (199).
He scored his fastest ODI 50 in 18 balls and has hit four ODI 50s in 20 balls or less, second only to Pakistan's Shahid Afridi who achieved the feat six times.