Sharjah: Skipper Brendon McCullum hailed New Zealand’s “not so easy” series levelling win in the third Test on Sunday in the wake of fellow cricketer Phillip Hughes’s tragic death. New Zealand thumped Pakistan by an innings and 80 runs to level the three-match series 1-1 in a match overshadowed by Australian batsman Hughes’s untimely death on Thursday.

“It certainly wasn’t easy,” said McCullum. “It was a very tough period. We are nowhere as affected as the guys back in Australia, but at the same time, cricket is a community … it is a fraternity and we felt we lost one of our own.” Both teams agreed to abandon the second day’s play on Thursday after the tragic news came and did not celebrate fall of wickets and milestones.

McCullum said the tragedy hit players hard. “It hit the guys pretty hard and we tried to stay as close as we could as a group. We tried to spend a lot of time together and tried to talk through stuff and share one another’s thoughts.

“It felt incredibly hard to focus on the game and still hard to talk about the game. We will look back upon this performance in time and we will be really proud of what we have been able to achieve,” said McCullum who hit a robust 202 which helped his team post their highest-ever Test total of 690. Pakistan were bowled out for 351 and 259. McCullum praised his team’s fightback after losing a crucial toss and Pakistan racing to 281-3 on the first day.

“I am proud of the way the boys bounced back under trying circumstances. We stuck together on and off the field. But to bounce back the way we did by taking those seven wickets in the first session on the second day and then take the momentum into our batting and score at five an over, we were just playing with no inhibitions whatsoever.”

McCullum said New Zealand has progressed well in Tests. “I think from the low of being bowled out for 45 against South Africa, we could only go up,” said McCullum of their low score in Cape Town last year. “What it allowed us to do was strip things right back to what was important for us, how we wanted to be known as a team, how the country wanted us to play and the traits they wanted to see in those representing New Zealand – like a team that never gives up, and if they do get beaten, it is very hard to beat them.”

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq showed disappointement at the Sharjah stadium picth. “We cannot do anything about it,” said Misbah of the pitch. “We asked for the turner and everybody has seen what sort of wicket this was because we wanted this Test match to be decided and we asked for a turning pitch and I don’t know what happened.”

Misbah praised McCullum’s batting. “It was special batting by Brendon McCullum and that was amazing to say they were almost scoring at a run rate of over six so that really pushed us on the back foot and took the game away from us.” Both teams now play two Twenty20 internationals in Dubai on Thursday and Friday which will be followed by five one-day internationals.