Kane Williamson key to NZ's hopes

4:37 pm on 2 March 2015

Initially regarded by many as a test match specialist, Kane Williamson has shown just how key he is to New Zealand's Cricket World Cup hopes - calmly dispatching Mitchell Marsh over long on for six to win Saturday's Eden Park nail-biter.

A fist pump is as emotional as Kane Williamson gets on the cricket field.

A fist pump is as emotional as Kane Williamson gets on the cricket field. Photo: Photosport

Indian Premier League side Hyderabad Sunrisers, who paid $129,000 for Williamson at last month's auction, have got a real bargain.

That same side paid more than $800,000 for Trent Boult, who took career-best ODI figures in that victory over Australia.

Williamson is as calm and composed as they come. His fist pump after he hit the winning runs on Saturday was an emotional outburst in Williamson terms.

When he made his highest test score of 243 not out in January against Sri Lanka, I asked skipper Brendon McCullum whether, within the team environment, Williamson was any different to the low-key player seen out in the middle.

McCullum said what you see was what you got: Williamson enjoyed not being the centre of attention and could be found sitting with a beer in the corner of the changing rooms, quietly enjoying proceedings.

But McCullum was determined Williamson would have to accept the accolades due to him at some point.

Kane Williamson will have to be to the fore again at the knockout stage of the World Cup if the Black Caps are to maintain their winning run.

Kane Williamson will have to be to the fore again at the knockout stage of the World Cup if the Black Caps are to maintain their winning run. Photo: Photosport

The Northern Districts batsman has an insatiable appetite for runs. He's averaging over 45 in tests and has nine test centuries in 39 tests.

Compare that to Stephen Fleming, who had nine test hundreds in 111 test matches.

Nathan Astle sits at the top of New Zealand ODI century list, having scored 16 in 223 games.

Williamson is already fourth, with six in 69 games. His average easily eclipses those who sit above him: Astle, Ross Taylor and Fleming.

His strike rate, runs per 100 balls, is 83 - that's also faster than Astle, Taylor and Fleming.

In fact, inside the top 13 one-day century makers for New Zealand, only McCullum, Chris Cairns and Jesse Ryder have a higher strike rate.

After his latest performance, Williamson now sits sixth on the ODI world batting rankings - New Zealand's highest ranked batsman. Taylor, despite his poor World Cup form is 11th, and McCullum is 18th.

Winning the Chappell-Hadlee trophy is only the first step for the Black Caps.

Winning the Chappell-Hadlee trophy is only the first step for the Black Caps. Photo: Photosport

Timely boost for New Zealand

The win means more to New Zealand than the loss does to Australia.

Even though it was the narrowest of victories, it will give the Black Caps further self-confidence and momentum as they head into the knock-out phase of the tournament.

Australia are a better batting side than they showed, but it reinforced that - while they may be number one in the world rankings - they're not of the same calibre of Australian teams of the past.

Skipper Michael Clarke is the only one who ranks alongside the likes of Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Steve Waugh or Matthew Hayden.

David Warner is a force to be reckoned with, but fallible.

Williamson and McCullum are world class, but a top five rounded out by Martin Guptill, Taylor and Grant Elliott doesn't fill the opposition with fear.

If New Zealand are to reach the final and go onto win the tournament, there are going to have be several more special performances just like that on Saturday at Eden Park. The question is how often they can keep repeating such an effort.

So a top drawer win, yes, and one for the history books. But a World Cup winning effort? No, not yet.

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