Cricketer of the Week (January 5-11): Kane Williamson
This is perhaps as great a time as any to be a batsman in international cricket. Flat pitches and a lack of potent bowlers have meant that batsmen have made merry in favourable conditions. It has been a particularly good week for middle-order batsmen. Virat Kohli hammered his fourth hundred of the Test series against Australia in Sydney, but our focus this week is on another young batsman who smashed the Sri Lankans in Wellington.
New Zealand’s No.3, Kane Williamson, scored 242 of the most beautiful runs that you can see against Sri Lanka in the New Year's Test at Wellington, providing a double delight, after Kumar Sangakkara had scored a double ton earlier on, for the fans who had turned up at the Basin Reserve.
Rescued New Zealand out of deep trouble
Walking into bat with the score reading 75 for 1 and his side trailing by 60 runs, the 24-year-old right-hander was slow to start off with but soon got into the groove. He brought up his 16th Test fifty off 117 balls and was slowly eating into Sri Lanka’s first innings lead.
Williamson was soon awarded a lifeline when he was grassed at the long-leg boundary off the bowling of Dhammika Prasad. His score at the time was 60, and he sure made the Sri Lankans pay for that error.
Williamson reached his 9th Test hundred courtesy a quick single off the bowling of Prasad. If Sri Lanka had thought he had had enough, they were wrong. He continued to plunder the Sri Lankan attack to all parts of the ground with exquisitely timed shots and looked at ease while facing both pace and spin.
He reached his maiden double hundred in international cricket with a wonderful chip shot over mid-wicket off the bowling of Rangana Herath, showing that he can go over the top if need be.
The word that would most aptly describe Williamson’s effort would be 'precise'. His cover driving against the fast bowlers was the stand out aspect of his innings, and he wasn't afraid to take Herath on as well, skipping down the track and stroking him for runs on numerous occasions.
Williamson was on 242 when Brendon McCullum decided to declare the innings. He shared an unbeaten world record 365-run stand with wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling, who himself scored a well compiled 142 not out that helped the Kiwis amass a lead of 389 runs, which proved to be too much for the Lankans in the end. They were bowled out for 196 runs, thereby handing the Black Caps a 193-run win.
Williamson, who scored a hundred on Test debut against India at Ahmedabad in 2010, enjoyed a very good 2014, amassing 929 runs in 9 Tests at an average of 61.93. He also did very well in 2013, scoring 747 runs at an average of 41.50.
Look out for Kane in the next decade or so: Brendon McCullum
The right-hander received high praise from skipper Brendon McCullum at the end of the Test match, saying that the man from Tauranga has the potential to the greatest batsman in New Zealand’s history.
"It's hard to put this on his shoulders while the guy is so young, but I firmly believe Kane could go down as New Zealand's greatest ever batter.
“He's a phenomenal talent and such a level-headed guy, who just thinks first and foremost about the team and how he can contribute. He's ticking off some amazing statistics along the way and he's doing it in quite a strong leadership position within our group as well,” the 33-year-old said.
"That speaks volumes for the guy at the age of 24, that he's held in that regard within the group. His batting in all three forms of the game is world-class. He was batting in my backyard the other day against my boy. I said to my boy, 'In 10 years' time you're going to appreciate how good this experience was.' Kane's a phenomenal fellow and a gun player and we'll see a lot of him in the next few years," he added.
A reliable No.3 crucial for Test success
If one has a look at the great batting line-ups from yesteryear, each of them has had a player at No.3 who has had the ability to play the long innings. Australia had Ricky Ponting, who in his prime tore apart opposition bowlers. India, meanwhile, had Rahul Dravid, who wore down opposition with his solid defence and won many a match for the country.
New Zealand would be dearly hoping that, in the coming years, Williamson becomes that cricketer for them who can be depended upon to get the job done on a consistent basis.
Here’s a video of that wonderful innings from Williamson:
You can catch the past winners of this series on this link: Recent Cricketers of the Week