Kane Williamson in elite test cricket company

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 17:11 30/06/2014
Kane Williamson
Photosport
SEVENTH HEAVEN: Kane Williamson raises his bat in Barbados after scoring his seventh test century.

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From one self-confessed batting obsessive, the master craftsman Martin Crowe, this was some statement.

''I haven't met anyone so obsessed with batting than him in this country. He just lives and breathes it,'' Crowe said recently.

The object was Kane Williamson, whose test record is taking on remarkable symmetry to Crowe's.

Today's 161 not out at Bridgetown, Barbados, ticked his average into the 40s, the bottom line for a batsman to be considered world class.

Crowe hit a New Zealand record 17 centuries in an injury-shortened 77-test career.

Williamson turns 24 in August and has seven tons, the same number as Crowe at the same age. Breaking Crowe's record should be elementary before his 30th birthday, should major injuries not intervene.

Comparisons will be hard to avoid.

Crowe was the classic technician and it's difficult to imagine any New Zealand batsman being rated superior.

His straight drives off the fast men were as close to batting art as you could get, although Williamson's dancing feet and lofted drives to the spinners come close.

Williamson is driven and largely self-coached, almost always last to leave the New Zealand nets.

His interviews are polite but reveal little.

The total immersion in his job also shut out the distraction of being reported for a suspect bowling action last week, which could potentially see him sidelined from the bowling crease.

Williamson needed today's knock, his highest test score crafted over nearly six-and-a-half hours.

The kid from a good Tauranga family ground out a century on debut at 19, against India on the Ahmedabad dustbowl, but in 61 innings was yet to top 150.

His average lurked frustratingly below 40, for someone of his talent and work ethic.

His output was on the rise since the Bangladesh tour last October, and just three of his last 16 test scores have been under 40.

It's easy to forget Williamson's age, and maybe he just needed time.

He proved he could go big from primary school age when the centuries piled up, and he boasts a highest first-class score of 284 not out.

His low-risk technique, playing the ball late and under the eyes, makes the bowler come to him and ensures they have to take any chances, like the edge on 10 that flew past a motionless West Indies gloveman Denesh Ramdin.

Still, his centuries to date have been significant.

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His best effort before now was a match-saving 102 not out against the South African pace attack at Wellington in 2012. The world's fastest, Dale Steyn, provided a souvenir from that innings by smashing his plastic protective box into pieces, but he steered New Zealand to safety with Ross Taylor nursing a broken arm.

His 135 against Sri Lanka in November later that year built the first innings platform that saw New Zealand win that Colombo test.

His previous two centuries, both worth 113 against India at Auckland and West Indies at Kingston, resulted in Black Caps victories.

The ultimate yardstick for a batsman is to lead home victories.

Now with the New Zealand Cricket contracts imminent, there's an argument for Williamson to be handed the No 1 ranking for 2014-15.

Judged on current form and potential contribution for the next 12 months, with test cricket getting a higher rating, Williamson could be the Black Caps' MVP in the next year.

His ODI form against India was sublime and he can pace an innings.

With Taylor, the pair will be the pillars on which New Zealand's World Cup challenge is based. On recent evidence, it's hard to see Williamson being distracted from the big prize any time soon.

 

AT A GLANCE: Williamson v Crowe, test records before each turned 24

Crowe: 36 tests (59 innings), 2162 runs at 40.79, 7x100, HS 188

Williamson 34 tests (62 innings), 2377 runs at 40.28, 7x100, HS 161no

 

Fewest test matches to score seven centuries (NZ only):

Andrew Jones 32

Kane Williamson 34

Martin Crowe 34

Glenn Turner 36

Ross Taylor 41

Nathan Astle 49

Bevan Congdon 54

John Wright 57

Brendon McCullum 80

Stephen Fleming 85 

- Stuff

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