The Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson was leading his side’s reply in the second innings of the first Test between India and New Zealand after his bowlers helped him bundle India out for 318 in the first innings. Batting on 40 in the 32nd over of the game with his side well placed, he took his guard to face up to Ravichandran Ashwin.
The wily spinner had so far not enjoyed much purchase from the pitch other than a odd ball here and there on day 2. On this ocassion, he gave the ball some air, flighting it up on a beautiful line outside off. It prompted Williamson to come down the track to play the ball, he never really reached the pitch of the ball and was in no position when the ball turned and bounced wickedly after pitching.
The ball hit his helmet, a very rare sight when a spinner comes into bowl. Immediately, one of his two protective back-flaps in the rear of the helmet came flying off. Williamson was wounded but he had the wherewithal to look around for the ball. As he did so, moving his head around rapidly, the other back-flap fell off and landed, precariously, at the base of the stumps.
Time had stopped. Kane Williamson looked nervously at the stumps, the fielders close-in nearly jumped up in celebration, everyone waited. The few milliseconds that felt like an eternity had passed and the bails remained resolute and steadfast, staying in its position, not interested in the invitation to get dislodged.
Had the bails been dislodged, Williamson would have to walk back as is clearly mentioned in the rules of the game.
As per law 28 prescribed in MCC’s Laws of Cricket
(a) The wicket is put down if a bail is completely removed from the top of the stumps, or a stump is struck out of the ground:
(iv) by the striker’s person or by any part of his clothing or equipment becoming detached from his person
The batsman had survived. He would go on to record his 23rd half-century in Test cricket and was unbeaten on 65* as rain prevented any further play on day 2. He was living nervously though, there was a moment after that in the game where he had appeared to nick a delivery, his body language coveying that of a beaten man as the wicket-keeper completed the catch, but the umpire adjudged it to be not-out and he survived.
Kane Williamson is absolutely key to New Zealand’s chances of pulling off a historic win in India’s 500th Test. He has captained only 4 Tests in the past but his calibre as a batsman is beyond question. Among his contemporaries, namely Virat Kohli, Joe Root and Steven Smith, he is arguably the most rounded and most complete cricketer at the moment.
What he achieves in the Test is yet to be seen but the fact remains that he was nearly outdone by luck, condemned to his fate by an element that he has added to his helmet for protective purposes.