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Kane Williamson | The Silent ‘Torch Bearer’ for the Blackcaps

Kane Williamson | The Silent ‘Torch Bearer’ for the Blackcaps

 

 

We are seeing the dawn of probably our greatest ever batsman (in Kane Williamson),” is what the late Martin Crowe, New Zealand’s most skilled batsman, said for the current Blackcaps’ skipper, back in the first week of 2015, when Williamson was still 3,422 Test runs behind him (and 4,138 behind Stephen Fleming, New Zealand’s highest run scorer in Test cricket).

Considering the vast number of variables involved in the game of cricket, it is quite rare for such prophecies to come true. But, more than three years after the prediction, Kane Williamson is seen on a steady pathway to leave both Crowe and Fleming behind, by a comfortable margin in terms of the numbers.

His average of 51.91 is an ample reflection of his potential. After playing 69 Tests, he is the only Kiwi batsman at present to have a Test average in excess of 50 and it has not gone below that mark since April 2017. The longest a Kiwi batsman has maintained that mark was Bert Sutcliffe, back in the 1950s, who had an average of 50-plus for the first 10 Tests of his career.

At the age of just 28, Williamson already has the most number of Test hundreds by a Kiwi batsman. He has a frequency of a Test 100 in 3.63 Tests, which is better than any other New Zealand batsman in its Test history.

But, what really stands out with Williamson is his ability to cope with pressure and turn up his A-game when the side is struggling. Staging a comeback from irrecoverable situations has been a hallmark of New Zealand’s success of late, and Kane Williamson has played a pivotal role in Blackcaps’ resurgence, again and again.

KANE CAN Play Crunch Knocks

Here is a list some commendable hundreds scored by Kane Williamson when New Zealand was lagging behind in the match/series:

#1 135 v Sri Lanka, (2012)

Asian tracks have always been a tough task for the SENA countries and New Zealand has been no different. The second Test at Colombo was a must-win game for the Kiwis to level the series and Kane Williamson responded in a terrific manner with his captain, Ross Taylor, forging a 262-run partnership for the third wicket.

There were no other hundreds in the game and Sri Lanka was pushed on the backfoot on the first day itself, which eventually helped New Zealand to draw the series and register its first win in Sri Lanka since 1998.

#2 161* vs West Indies, 2014

It was the series decider and New Zealand was in a tricky position after lagging behind by 24 runs in the second innings. Kane Williamson found himself in the middle at the end of the second over with just a run on the board and unleashed his genius, scoring 161 not out in a 381-minute long vigil.

He was the only centurion in the match and with his great show of both patience and skills, and some help from the bowlers in the fourth innings, New Zealand snatched both the game and the series.

#3 242* vs Sri Lanka, 2015

New Zealand found itself in a rare submissive position in home conditions to begin 2015. Kumar Sangakkara’s double ton had pushed the home side back and Kane Williamson saw the top-order batsmen around him falter before the Kiwis could overcome the first innings deficit.

What followed was one of the greatest act of rescues in New Zealand cricket. Williamson stayed on the crease for more than 10 hours in an unbeaten 365-run partnership with B.J. Watling. It was only the declaration that could stop Kane’s masterclass, where he notched up his highest Test score so far.

Sri Lanka was shot down for 196 in the second innings and after gaining a healthy first innings lead, it lost the game by 193 runs.

#4 104* v Bangladesh, 2017

Bangladesh surprised New Zealand by posting a massive total of 594 on a green track on Day 1. In response, Kane Williamson missed out on scoring big in the first innings after getting his eye in, but Latham kept the home side in the game with a 100. A collapse in the second innings set a tricky target of 217 for the Blackcaps, but Williamson made it look like a cakewalk with an effortless knock of 104 not out from 90 balls, leading New Zealand to a 1-0 series lead.

#5 139 v Pakistan, 2018

The latest act of redemption from the Kiwi skipper, once again, affirmed his status as one of the Test greats currently active. While all others were struggling to counter the spin of Yasir Shah, Williamson played him with great assurance in the first innings, scoring 89. His knock, was still not enough as Pakistan took a crucial lead of 74 runs and New Zealand fell down to 60/4 in the second innings.

Once again, Kiwis had their back against the wall and captain Kane carried out another salvage operation with the bat, this time, teaming up with Henry Nicholls in a 212-run partnership for the fifth wicket.

New Zealand gave Pakistan a stiff task of batting out the last day. Pakistan collapsed for the second time in Abu Dhabi and Williamson’s marathon knock helped New Zealand seal its first Test series win against Pakistan in Asia since 1969.

The Victory Sponsorer

Kane Williamson has been a part of 26 Test wins, sixth-most by a Kiwi player. To compliment this, Williamson has scored 11 hundreds and 2,862 in Test victories, the most by a New Zealand batsman with lesser Test wins than Taylor, Fleming and McCullum.

Almost 1/5th Williamson’s Test runs have come in wins for New Zealand. Clearly, he does not want to suffer the fate of Bert Sutcliffe, who batted flawlessly over 42 Tests for New Zealand, but never ended up on the winning side.

Not only among the Kiwis, but Williamson excels over his modern-day contemporaries as well, in terms of contributing to his team’s winning cause. Among the ‘Fab Four’, Kane Williamson again has the highest percentage of his runs in Test victories.

(The number 13 seems quite low for a batsman like Steve Smith, whose rise as a batsman has been pivotal in Australia’s fortunes in Test cricket since the retirement of their golden generation. This is mainly because of the unproductive first three years Steve Smith had as a batsman. Since his comeback into the Australian side in 2013, Smudge has scored 18.4% of his Test runs in victories for Australia – the closest to Kane Williamson).

The numbers are a clear indicator of New Zealand’s dependency on its skipper as a batsman. Fair to say, no match is over as long as Williamson is on the crease for the Kiwis, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem.

With still a lot of cricket left in him, Williamson is destined to achieve much bigger feats for New Zealand cricket. The kind of form he has been in since 2014 (his worst year in the period being 2016, where he averaged an impressive 47), it seems the only thing that can stop him from scoring 10,000 Test runs is the low amount of Test matches New Zealand plays annually.

After the rescue act from Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis in the first Test, the visitor would be high on confidence before the Boxing Day Test. But, it will have its task cut out against the genius of Kane Williamson. Given that he averages 91.80 against the Lions in Test cricket, no one would know it better than the Sri Lankans themselves.

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