New Zealand v England, 2nd Test, Wellington, 4th day March 17, 2013

Williamson shows hint of his class

Kane Williamson is among a rare breed in New Zealand, a batsman who has the ability to last a whole day in Test cricket

If New Zealand escape Wellington with a draw, as England did last week in Dunedin, the weather will have aided their cause. As if on cue, a record dry summer is ending with a Test series to play. It would be unfair, though, to look past the batting of Kane Williamson in New Zealand's second innings, which has been another reminder of an emerging talent on the world stage.

Helping his team to safety at the Basin Reserve is not new to Williamson. Last year, facing South Africa, he made an unbeaten 102 against an attack featuring Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel (who took all six wickets), Vernon Philander and Marchant de Lange. It was his second Test hundred, to follow a debut ton against India, and was an important innings for someone who had not kicked on from that notable start to his career.

Williamson's career numbers do not jump off the page. A Test average of 31.86 after 22 matches is not the hallmark of a No.3, and he averaged under 40 in first-class cricket during his spell with Gloucestershire, but New Zealand are being patient with him because, beneath the statistics, there is a considerable batsman in the making. Anyone who watched his unbeaten 145 in the one-day series against South Africa will have realised that this is a batsman who can repay the faith.

Clearly, he cannot be given forever to fully bed into Test cricket but New Zealand are not so rich in talent that Williamson cannot be persevered with. Both his innings in this match - he was playing very comfortably until chipping a catch back to Stuart Broad for 42 - have suggested that his average will go one way in the long term. His 135 against Sri Lanka, in Colombo, last year to help set up the series-leveling victory was a fantastic display of batsmanship.

New Zealand have not had a steady No. 3 since Stephen Fleming retired. Williamson was worked over by the South Africa quick bowlers in the Test series in January, but there is no disgrace in struggling against Steyn and Philander on their home patch. Still only 22, he has been rapidly promoted up the order - his maiden hundred came at No.6, his one against South Africa at No.4 - and asked to forge a career in a tough position. Then there is the pressure of being mentioned in the same breath as Martin Crowe. That is not an easy burden to handle.

Ideally, Williamson would have been offered longer to establish his game before being elevated but there is a jam for middle-order slots and less of a clamour for top-order berths in the current generation of New Zealand batsman, although Hamish Rutherford has recently gone against that trend. There is a strong argument that Brendon McCullum should be batting at No. 3, to allow Williamson time to develop at five or six, but the captain feels, and his current form is compelling, that he is best as a counter-attacker lower down.

Therefore, Williamson is the man who has to be prepared to face the second ball of the innings. He has certainly been in early on many occasions. Waiting behind the 158-run stand between Rutherford and Peter Fulton in Dunedin was a novelty for him; the first-wicket partnerships of 6 and 25 in this match are more what Williamson has got used to.

So far he has faced 174 balls in the second innings and rarely looked in much trouble. England reviewed for an lbw when he had 1 but an inside edge saved him. That was against a full delivery and, perhaps, England have not dragged him forward quite as much as they could have because Williamson looks comfortable on the back foot in defence or attack. The back-foot punch through the off side is becoming a trademark.

New Zealand have also been smart in their recent handling of Williamson. They have left him out of the Twenty20 side since the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka last year. Although there are exceptions with players who instantly grace three formats, the shortest format is not the game to be honing tight techniques. That is not to say Williamson cannot adapt in the future, but right now there are a good supply of batsman in New Zealand who can give the ball a thump, far fewer who have the potential to bat for a day in a Test match. Williamson is one of those.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • G on March 19, 2013, 13:44 GMT

    williamson is a young player playing international cricket. His stats are going to be a bit average for a few years, but when he hits 26/27 he should be a real top class batsman

  • mukesh on March 18, 2013, 20:37 GMT

    Kane williamson is a class act in the making , no doubt about it , technically correct , young and seems to have the right temperament for test cricket , i have always wondered why there was not many article about him in cric info

  • Ben on March 18, 2013, 16:07 GMT

    @Pardo, Another comparison closer to home: at the same age, Martin Crowe had played the same number of tests (22), had scored 100 less runs (1106), and had one less century. His average (31.60) was near identical to Williamson. Martin Crowe's career really took off at this point, so the next 1-2 years is a key point in his development

  • Stephen on March 18, 2013, 14:28 GMT

    Let's not get too carried away. Williamson has the potential to be very good, possibly one of the top two or three kiwis of all time, but, by way of comparison, by the time Cook was the same age (22 yrs, 222 days) he had played two fewer tests (20 vs 22), but had scored over 300 more runs (1,554 vs 1211), twice as many centuries (6 vs 3) and had an average more than 12 runs better (44.40 vs 31.86).

    While Williamson has had to find his feed amidst the omnishambles that has been NZ Cricket for the last two years, Cook's career started with the decline of Fletcher's reign, the Fredalo affair and the Moores/Pieterson saga. Williamson has the potential for become better than his current numbers suggest but he is not yet even approaching great and certainly not "the best No 3 in the world".

  • Ryan on March 18, 2013, 10:04 GMT

    He is an outstanding talent. He has the potential to be a world beater. The fact that he is only 22 gives him an immense amount of time to fine-tune his game. It would be good to see him develop a good partnership with Rutherford, in the Ponting/Hayden mould. By the time his career ends, hopefully he will have scored in excess of 20 test centuries.

  • Dummy4 on March 18, 2013, 7:19 GMT

    I think it's Taylor's turn at #3. Williamson can have #4 to develop himself.

  • josh on March 18, 2013, 3:38 GMT

    easily the best #3 in test cricket atm, look forward to watching him dominate for the next 15 yrs

  • Mark on March 18, 2013, 3:24 GMT

    Three things Kane Williamson has going for him that point to a very bright future: talent, attitude and intelligence. He already looks far better than his low 30s average and I have every confidence he will be a top quality player, certainly by NZ standards.

    At 22 years of age i would say he is already well ahead of where you would expect him to be, so patience indeed is what we need.

  • Baxter on March 17, 2013, 23:41 GMT

    My thoughts exactly. Williamson's stats absolutely don't reflect his ability, and certainly don't even hint at his potential. But specific innings he's played really show what a batsman he can be. In his defence, as Andrew points out, he's been thrown into a very difficult position because of a lack of options (if Ryder was available more often, that would be different). I think if Kane was batting at 5 his average would be 35-40; because of NZ's chronic opening problems, 3 is an incredibly difficult spot for a batsman to develop, when you are so frequently under pressure after an early wicket. But Williamson will become a world class test batsman (or at least, he has all the tools to be one), particularly if we find a solid opening pair (Rutherford will be one half of that, perhaps Raval will step up next season or Guptill will lift his test performances) and we can set up a potent middle order of Taylor, Ryder and McCullum at 4/5/6 at some point.

  • Ed on March 17, 2013, 23:26 GMT

    The one thing that has eluded NZ batsmen in the past is a 'Daddy century' as Gooch calls the, i.e. someone to go and score a double century. McCullum needs to show the way here, he too often gets out in the 70's or 80's, If he went on to score 200, I think Williamson will follow. McCullum is starting to turn this team around thouhg, and I respect him for that.

  • No featured comments at the moment.