Kane Williamson completes record 18th century

Auckland:Kane Williamson’s hundred on the second day of the first Test at Eden Park took him past the great Martin Crowe to become New Zealand’s leading century-maker in Test cricket, a record that has stood for more than 20 years. Williamson now has 18 Test hundreds to his name from 64 matches at an average of more than fifty. It is already some record.

There is plenty more to come, too. Williamson is just 27 years old so he should go on to make many more hundreds and although some might see Crowe’s elegance and style as greater than Williamson’s comparatively more technical approach, there is little doubt that New Zealand’s current captain will end up as his country’s highest run-scorer in Test cricket.

He is one of the four current leading Test batsmen in the world alongside Joe Root, Virat Kohli and Steve Smith. The foursome all average over 50 with the bat, although Smith (23 hundreds from 64 matches) and Kohli (21 from 66) are leading the way on hundreds. Root pales in comparison on that score with 13 centuries to his name from 65 Tests. All four are magnificent players and Williamson deserves his place among them.

This hundred, his second against England, was typical Williamson. He played late and straight, was circumspect when he needed to be, particularly late on day one in ensuring his team got to the close just three down, accumulated mercilessly off his legs and unfurled some lovely shots including a straight drive today off Stuart Broad which cracked off the bat. He reached his hundred from 196 balls with a typical late guide to gully off James Anderson.

The reaction was understated, just like Williamson comes across when he directs his men in the field or when he talks to the press. He calmly removed his helmet, lifted his bat to the dressing room slowly and then the rest of the ground before getting back to business. Because Williamson’s business has always been about batting, batting, batting.

He scored a hundred on debut in 2010 against India in Ahmedabad but it took him 29 matches to make his first four centuries. He was doing fine but his returns were not exceptional until something suddenly changed in 2014. In his first Test innings that year, he made 113 against India at Eden Park and scored another three hundreds before 2014 was out, two in West Indies and one against Pakistan in UAE. Since the start of that year, Williamson has averaged 65.22 from 35 matches and scored 14 hundreds.

Former New Zealand players Ian Smith and Simon Doull have said in recent weeks that they think Williamson should stop playing T20 cricket – Smith suggested New Zealand Cricket buy him out of his IPL deal with Sunrisers Hyderabad – in order to ensure he is at his best and freshest for Test and ODI cricket. Both men think that such is his value to New Zealand in those formats, he needs to be protected.

Whether that happens at some point in the future remains to be seen but Williamson, like his opposite number in this series Root, another who plays all three formats, has shown no signs of wanting to miss out on T20 cricket. His value to New Zealand in Test matches cannot be understated, however. They have lost only three of the 18 games when Williamson has scored a hundred.

Is he already New Zealand’s greatest Test batsman? Crowe, whose passing in 2015 was mourned by the entire cricketing world, would still have some claim to that title regardless of how many runs Williamson scores by virtue of his grace at the crease and the fact that he was New Zealand’s first truly world-class batsman. Ross Taylor deserves an honourable mention too, but if Williamson can maintain – for another six or seven years – the form he has showed since 2014, greatness will be his.

Williamson may soon be joined on 18 Test hundreds by Taylor, a man who shared an extremely close bond with Crowe and who equalled his mentor’s tally of 17 Test hundreds against West Indies in Hamilton last year. The mantle of New Zealand’s highest Test century-maker may go back and forth between Taylor and Williamson over the next few years but the latter will finish with more. Just how many remains to be seen.

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