Williamson's spin conquests a plus for New Zealand
One of the most assuring sights for New Zealand in the Chittagong Test was the ease with which Kane Williamson batted against the Bangladesh spinners. Spending time at the crease was necessary to adjust to conditions - as Peter Fulton, BJ Watling and Ross Taylor demonstrated - but New Zealand's batting unit would have gained more confidence through Williamson's performance.
Allrounder Corey Anderson, who made his Test debut in Chittagong, was one of the New Zealand players inspired by Williamson's knocks of 114 and 74.
"It was [inspirational], especially for me," Anderson said. "I am pretty new, so he put his hand up and showed us how it is done. You want to try and do the same thing. Kane is an incredible batter. Hopefully he can produce the same sort of numbers he did in the first Test. We thought he was going to double up, but he got out in a [freakish] way."
Next week, in Dhaka, Williamson will once again have to bring his confidence against spin to the fore. Brendon McCullum and Taylor are the senior batsmen in the line-up but Williamson's technique and mental strength against the spinners stand out. These traits have seemingly inspired the likes of Hamish Rutherford, Corey Anderson, and even Fulton, who are new to these conditions.
Fulton had to work hard for his two fifties despite batting against pace, a mode of attack easier to deal with in the subcontinent. He batted for 235 and 218 minutes in the match, but looked ungainly at times and scoring options were at a minimum. Taylor, Watling and No. 11 Trent Boult scored fifties and showed confidence in parts.
But Williamson was untroubled by the Bangladesh attack as he crossed fifty and then reached his third Test hundred in the subcontinent on the first day. It was worrying for the home side, until Shakib beat his defenses late in the evening. As soon as Williamson fell, McCullum followed suit and, on the second morning, New Zealand lost their way before Watling made the most of a reprieve.
It becomes hard to bat in the middle with a tail-end batsman when the top-order is all at sea against a particular type of bowling; here Williamson's confidence had an indirect influence. Watling and Boult clearly understood that their task was to extend the New Zealand innings.
In the second innings, too, Williamson and Fulton put on 101 runs for the second wicket after Rutherford's early loss. Williamson was not visibly dominating the attack, but his ease assured the other batsmen that spin could be played well.
It's worth noting that New Zealand has persisted with him at No. 3 for the past two years. In the last five years, Williamson is the only New Zealand batsman to have batted for more than 20 innings at No. 3. McCullum, Hamish Marshall, Jesse Ryder and Daniel Flynn are among several top-order batsmen to have tried out in the position, but their stays haven't lasted more than 14 innings. Williamson has also found success in the subcontinent at No. 3 - two of his four centuries, first against Sri Lanka last November and now in Chittagong, have come at this position in this part of the world.
Williamson remains, however, an unfulfilled talent. In 29 innings at No. 3, he has those two centuries and averages little under 35. His six fifties in the position show that while he is good at getting starts, he still has to work on converting those into substantial innings. He burst on to the scene with a Test hundred on debut, soon after a maiden ODI century against Bangladesh in 2010. But his overall batting average of 34.19 from 26 Tests remains below-par for a batsman with obvious talent.
In the second Test in Dhaka, he will have another opportunity to add to his growing confidence and lift that average a little bit. This time, if he gets there, he will have to kick on from a century and make it bigger knock. If Bangladesh are to be stymied at home, a big innings from Williamson would certainly give New Zealand the right platform to build on.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here