Kane Williamson masterclass: Play late to avoid getting out early

Vishal Menon
Kane Williamson, Kane Williamson batting, Day 2 India vs New Zealand, INDvNZ Day 2

Kane Williamson played an 89-run innings on Day 2 of the first Test.

Moments before the tea interval on Day 2, Kane Williamson unfurled his signature shot off Jasprit Bumrah — the unconventional dab with an open face just behind the backward point region. What made it so special was the control that Williamson managed to exercise because of his ability to play it so late, meeting the delivery right under his eyes. Through the course of his 153-ball 89 on Saturday, the New Zealand captain underscored his technical nous, and gave the Indians a masterclass on how to bat at the Basin Reserve. This is a venue where he averaged in excess of 60 with three Test centuries. Williamson, on his part, has the technique to counter the most treacherous conditions and neutralize the most potent bowling attacks in the world.

Apart from his ability to play late, he has small trigger movements. This is a unique trait, and is quite an antithesis to his opposite number Virat Kohli. Irrespective of the format, the Indian captain loves to take that exaggerated stride forward and play his cover drive. It's almost as if there's a pressing need on his part to feel the bat on the ball.

Kane Williamson during his innings. (REUTERS/Martin Hunter)

Such a technique has served Kohli well in the shorter formats and in Australia and South Africa, where he has to just trust the bounce of the surface. But in England and particularly New Zealand, where there's sharp movement on offer, such a method can often bring about your downfall, as Kohli found out on Day 1. Williamson, on the other hand, loves to hang back on the crease and more often than not, presents a dead bat and plays with soft hands. Hence, those dabs, cuts, and punches through the point and gully regions are a recurrent feature in his innings.

Unlike Kohli, he rarely displays the urge to go for those expansive drives. Sure, when there's a wide half volley on offer, he would not miss out on the opportunity to orchestrate his languid drives, like the manner in which he caressed Mohammed Shami between the extra cover region and mid-off in the final session. Add the compact defence and that trademark balance, and you have one of the finest batsmen in contemporary cricket. Kohli apart, even someone like the young Prithvi Shaw would do well to take a leaf out of Williamson’s batting manual. If anything, it would serve him well for the rest of this series as well as in the future, when he tours England.