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Kane Williamson, with a superlative century, took New Zealand to a strong position in the crucial final Test played against the West Indies at Bridgetown, Barbados. Bharath Ramaraj looks at New Zealand’s technically best batsman at present.
For long, New Zealand have lacked a rock-solid No 3 batsman who could immaculately construct large edifices and erect a platform for middle-order to ram home the advantage. Andrew Jones was perhaps the last New Zealander to lay many a foundation with a compendium of gritty knocks for Martin Crowe to reach some fabulous peaks in his career.
However, New Zealand seems to have found a battle-hardened cricketer ready to take on the world. When Kane Williamson rocks back and plays a back-foot punch through the off-side, he seems to be writing a sonnet that is wonderful and rare. Yet, when Williamson made a game-changing century in the ongoing Test against the West Indies at Barbados, early on, he struggled for timing and placement. He seemed to be batting with a stick rather than a willow when he edged a delivery that went between the wicketkeeper, Denesh Ramdin and first slip fielder Chris Gayle. It was followed by an inside edge that could have gone onto shatter his stumps. But you need a bit of luck along with pluck to reach the summit of batsmanship.
However, once Williamson got his bearings in, he embellished the off-side with back-foot punches, occasional cover-drive and strokes down the ground. The late cut he essayed off Sulieman Benn late on the third day was pure and divine, as he played with softest of hands to guide it with filigree-like precision past the slip fielder for a boundary.
Williamson, all of 23, even seemed to be acting as a mentor and guide to Jimmy Neesham and the older BJ Watling, as New Zealand built a sizeable lead. It has to be remembered that New Zealand lost early wickets in the second innings, but it was Williamson who steadied the ship with his soul sapping defiance.
Williamson, during his innings also went past his previous highest score, which was 135 against Sri Lanka at Colombo in 2012. It is a fine achievement for him and more importantly, for a No 3 batsman, a highest score of 135 does not make a good reading.
Ever since Williamson made a name for himself during his under 19 days with an ensemble of fine achievements, one always felt that Williamson could be a symbol of rare stability in otherwise a largely fragile batting line-up. Yet, Williamson playing in his 34th Test averages below 40. Maybe this innings against the West Indies can turn out to be that career defining knock of Kane Williamson’s career.
(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)
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