There is something uniquely summer about watching Kane Williamson at the crease. Whether it be in the pure whites or the colored clothes, the 30-year old has propelled himself into the true upper echelon of New Zealand’s most successful batsmen.
Like the greats of Crowe, Taylor, and McCullum, Williamson has always had a trajectory for greatness and it’s fitting that he joins them in being a successful captain.
That greatness, that shining example of leadership, took another step forward in Hamilton this week.
At exactly 2.47 pm on Friday, Williamson ticked himself over a score of 200 for the third time in his career, joining precious few New Zealanders to have ever achieved such a feat. It put the exclamation point on an effort spanning nearly a quarter of the Test match that looked as assured as anything from a batsman of this caliber, with a clear plan to wait for the right balls and put them away.
It was a game of patience for Williamson early, and maybe, if you were to be cynical, the West Indies were guilty of being ill-disciplined enough with their line and length to allow the great batsman the time he needed to assess.
To truly appreciate what captain Kane achieved when he strode out onto Seddon Park, and on a pitch that wasn’t exactly batter-friendly, you’ve got to look at the context around the occasion. The last time Kane Williamson batted in Test cricket prior to this innings? Nine long months ago.
Cricket, like our very way of living, has changed dramatically since then because of that pandemic.
Oh, don’t we know how it’s all changed.
We needed something that felt close to a normal summer, so naturally, the sight of Williamson playing his classic cover drives time and time again has been a welcome reality.
We all sat in awe this week, we all knew that Williamson would take it a single delivery at a time, and as we watched the 30-year old continuously giving his knee a wack during that fiddly pre-ball routine, the overwhelming feeling was one of anticipation, quickly followed by confirmation.
The knock of 251 will go down as one of Williamson’s best ever dig-ins at the wicket. Not just from the perspective that it’s a new personal best score, but the character of the man which was on full show both during and after the moment.
You don’t get much of any emotion from this man at the best of times, he’s just so incredibly locked into the process of batsmanship and all other aspects of cricket, with the constant rule that it’s about the team first.
When sitting in his presence a day out from the game, the vibe I felt from Kane was one of immense calm, blanketed over with just a little bit of quiet anticipation for the occasion. I sense that Test cricket is his favorite form game, and it had been far too long since he last played it.
Leaving the press conference on Wednesday having taken in what the great man said and taking a look at his body language, you knew that if given even a smidgen of opportunity out in the middle, something special would come. It’s a feeling that few cricketers might buy into, and certainly, one that I don’t get very often when talking to professional sportspeople.
For all the talk of calm, hot focus on preparation, backing the process, etcetera, a lot of it you find is often just read from an established script book that is set aside to direct the player on appropriate answers to the curious questions of the press.
Not with Kane, he’s similar to other greats in New Zealand sport in that he has his own unique approach to that side of his responsibilities, and while giving the duties the respect they deserve, he’s always locked into the very beating heart of what’s going on in the team environment.
Performances such as the one on show this week, where Williamson established himself as the true runs king of Seddon Park, come from raw talent and experience. It was his first first class innings since early March.
A total of 251 scored in a time period of nearly a day and a quarter, equating to almost 50% of New Zealand’s total runs in the first innings. It is a display of batsmanship in which its brilliance cannot be underscored enough, and barring something truly remarkable by the West Indies over the next few days, has all but won the game for New Zealand.
For those who were lucky enough to witness it in person, it was an experience that none of us will ever forget.
So here’s to you, Kane. This might just be the most meaningful Test innings from a New Zealand batsman for some time to come.
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