Cap­tain colos­sus toughs it out again

Nelson Mail - - Sport - For the lat­est on the third test go to stuff.co.nz Mark Geenty [email protected] New Zealand bat­ting coach Craig McMil­lan

All runs are equal in cricket’s score­book, but for New Zealand’s bat­ting marvel Kane Wil­liamson some have more of a golden hue than oth­ers.

The skip­per’s 19th test cen­tury on day four of the third test against Pak­istan in Abu Dhabi not only un­der­lined his sta­tus as one of the world’s best, but con­tin­ued his re­mark­able record when the go­ing re­ally gets tough: in the sec­ond in­nings of a test match.

Un­beaten on a sub­lime 139 head­ing into the fi­nal day of the se­ries, Wil­liamson boosted his sec­ond in­nings test av­er­age in the past five years to 67.65.

Put in iso­la­tion it’s a re­mark­able num­ber, on wear­ing, vari­able pitches where bat­ting gets trick­ier the fur­ther a test match pro­gresses.

Com­pare it to world cricket’s other big guns and it’s even more im­pres­sive.

Sri Lanka’s An­gelo Matthews is the only other bats­man to av­er­age over 50 in the sec­ond in­nings (51.32) in that pe­riod from the start of 2014.

Then fol­lows the rest of test cricket’s top-five ranked bats­men: Aus­tralia’s David Warner (48.30), his fel­low sus­pended team-mate Steve Smith (46.24), In­dia’s Vi­rat Kohli (45.62) and Eng­land’s Joe Root (41.82). Over his ca­reer, Wil­liamson’s sec­ond in­nings av­er­age of 51.18 is well clear of Root (43.53), Kohli (42.93) and Smith (40.77).

On cur­rent world rank­ings the bat­ting or­der is Kohli, Smith, Wil­liamson, Root and Warner, but the Black Caps skip­per showed he can stand tall with any of them.

‘‘It was a very dif­fi­cult in­nings. The great thing about Kane is he makes it look easy at times when those who’ve been out there re­alise how dif­fi­cult it is. Such is the class of the man he makes bat­ting look ridicu­lously easy,’’ said bat­ting coach Craig McMil­lan.

On the same strip where Pak­istan rolled Aus­tralia for 164 in Oc­to­ber for a 373-run vic­tory, Wil­liamson showed all his best qual­i­ties with his side tee­ter­ing, the se­ries locked 1-1.

Legspin­ner Yasir Shah and off­spin­ner Bi­lal Asif, who tor­mented Aus­tralia and a fair few New Zealand bats­men this se­ries, were seen off de­spite gen­er­at­ing sig­nif­i­cant turn. Wil­liamson dis­played an im­pen­e­tra­ble de­fence, soft hands, steely de­ter­mi­na­tion and then some flashy stuff, the ball racing across the grass via text­book cover drives, back foot punches and pull shots.

‘‘I don’t want to rank it be­cause it’s his 19th test cen­tury and there’s go­ing to be a num­ber more in years to come. Suf­fice to say it’s a very spe­cial in­nings,’’ McMil­lan said.

It was Wil­liamson’s sixth cen­tury in the sec­ond in­nings of a test.

All the pre­vi­ous five were sig­nif­i­cant, start­ing with his bruis­ing 102 not out to force a draw against a fiery South African at­tack at Welling­ton’s Basin Re­serve in 2012.

Still in the in­fancy of his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer, Wil­liamson watched team-mate Ross Taylor have his arm bro­ken by Morne Morkel, then suf­fered a painful break of his own to his plas­tic ab­dom­i­nal pro­tec­tor, thanks to a Dale Steyn thun­der­bolt.

The other sec­ond in­nings spe­cials were all un­beaten and led to test wins, clearly Wil­liamson’s pre­req­ui­site for a high rat­ing:

In Bar­ba­dos in 2014, 161 not out to in­spire a 52-run win and clinch that West Indies se­ries 2-1.

In Welling­ton in 2015, 242 not out against Sri Lanka af­ter the Black Caps trailed by 135 on the first in­nings, then won by 193 runs.

In Hamilton in 2015, 108 not out against Sri Lanka as the ball leapt alarm­ingly and speed­ster Dush­man­tha Chameera was a con­stant men­ace. New Zealand won by five wick­ets.

In Welling­ton, again, in 2017, he scored 104 not out to ice a run chase and a seven-wicket vic­tory over Bangladesh af­ter the tourists posted 595-8 bat­ting first.

So there you have it. As McMil­lan noted there are plenty more to come for Wil­liamson at just 28.

Even more mouth-wa­ter­ing is the prospect of Wil­liamson go­ing up against the other big guns in the next 18 months, with Eng­land sched­uled for two tests in New Zealand next De­cem­ber, closely fol­lowed by three Black Caps tests in Aus­tralia then an in­bound visit by In­dia.

Let the com­par­isons be­gin.

‘‘The great thing about Kane is he makes it look easy at times when those who’ve been out there re­alise how dif­fi­cult it is.’’

GETTY IM­AGES/AP

Kane Wil­liamson dis­played his trade­mark steely de­ter­mi­na­tion with an im­pec­ca­ble tech­nique in an­other stel­lar sec­ond in­nings dis­play, this time in the third test against Pak­istan. In­set, Wil­liamson cel­e­brates reach­ing his 19th test cen­tury.

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