Williamson, Southee eye test landmarks
Kane Williamson and Tim Southee are poised to assume landmark places in New Zealand test cricket history during the series against England.
Williamson needs 39 more runs to pass Ross Taylor as the country’s leading run-scorer in tests, with the two-game series starting in Mount Maunganui on February 16.
Southee requires another nine wickets to pass Daniel Vettori (361 victims) as NZ’s second-most prolific test cricket bowler.
There’s a big gap between second spot and the No.1 place held for 43 years by Sir Richard Hadlee – but can the 34-year-old Southee eventually knock off the king? Recent history suggests the new Black Caps test captain could usurp Hadlee’s mark of 431 test wickets.
The right-arm seam and swing bowler has a strong fitness record for a pace bowler – he’s missed just 12 tests in the past decade.
In his 90 tests to date, Southee has captured 353 wickets at an average of 29.10, with 14 fivewicket bags and one 10-wicket haul. Not only has he shown no signs of slowing down, Southee – like other world-class pace bowlers in recent years – continues to take more wickets at the highest level at a better average than earlier in his career.
Over the past three years, the Northern Districts bowler has taken 83 wickets at 26.75 in 19 tests, with five 5-wicket match hauls. In his previous three years – 17 tests, 80 wickets at 25.80 and four five-wicket bags.
It’s not unrealistic – with a similar test programme for New Zealand over the next three years – for Southee to find himself, having just turned 37, as this country’s most prolific test wicket-taker.
Obviously he’ll need to avoid the injuries that hampered Hadlee in his final three seasons, but New Zealand’s finest was 39 when he played his last test in 1990.
While fitness was a problem, Hadlee’s form didn’t taper away when he played – in his last 16 tests over three years, Hadlee captured 76 wickets at 21.52, with seven five-wicket hauls and two 10-wicket bags.
Southee’s long-time new-ball test partner, Trent Boult, has 317 wickets from 78 tests but is unavailable for the series against England, and may not feature for New Zealand again in test cricket.
What Southee won’t get close to is Hadlee’s test bowling average – 22.29 – and his 36 five-wicket collections and nine 10-wicket bags.
The Black Caps skipper need look no further than this month’s opponents for proof that Hadlee’s No.1 spot is clearly in reach.
The England attack will be spearheaded by 40-year-old James Anderson and 36-year-old Stuart Broad, with 1241 test wickets combined. Anderson has played 55 tests in the past six years and taken 208 wickets, with minimal difference in outstanding results in the last three seasons.
Broad, two-and-a-half years older than the Black Caps skipper, has nabbed 103 wickets over the past three years at an average of 23.66 – more than four runs better
than his career average of 27.77.
Looking back at still recent test history, Australia’s Glenn McGrath ended his career with
563 wickets at 21.64. In the last three years of his career, aged 34-36, the right-armer took 133 wickets at 21.41 in 29 tests.
Once Williamson assumes the No 1 spot among New Zealand’s test batters, he’s also set to hold that mark for more than a decade at least. The 32-year-old has made 7645 runs – just short of the 7683 Taylor scored for New Zealand after playing his final test against Bangladesh last January.
Williamson has been troubled in recent years by an elbow injury which saw him sidelined for four months last summer, but if fit and with the desire to play tests, he could push his tally around the 9000-run mark.
Like Southee, his form has only improved in recent years – Williamson has averaged 70.33 in the 12 tests he’s managed in the past three years, with four centuries and two fifties.
Australian great Ricky Ponting made 13,378 test runs at 51.85 from 168 appearances, with 41 tons; Williamson’s average from 90 tests is 53.83 with 25 centuries. Ponting did experience a notable drop-off in form in the final three years of his test career, when aged 35-37, making 1978 runs at 36.62. However, India’s
Rahul Dravid – who averaged
52.31 in a test career spanning almost 16 years – made 2779 runs at 52.43 in 33 tests in his final three years, notching up 9 centuries and seven fifties while aged 37-39.
The closest current Black Cap to Williamson in test runs is opener Tom Latham, with 4904 from 70 tests.
Given he’s just two years younger than Williamson, it seems highly unlikely the lefthander who averages 41.91 will get close to what the former test captain will end his career with.
With all of New Zealand’s top seven in the batting order older than 30, Williamson’s tally of test runs will inevitably keep him at the top of the heap for many years to come.