Image: New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson during nets Action Images via Reuters / Philip Brown
(Reuters) – New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum called him ‘The King’ but Kane Williamson swatted aside the praise after his record-breaking century capped a five-wicket victory in the second test against Sri Lanka on Monday.
Williamson, who was dismissed for one in the first innings at Seddon Park, provided a match-winning 108 not out in the second as the hosts chased down 189 for victory.
“It was an innings of sheer quality from ‘The King’ and the rest of us were able to sit back and watch someone at the top of his game,” McCullum said in a televised interview.
“I thought it was an outstanding innings.”
The century, Williamson’s fifth of 2015, was not only a record for New Zealand batsmen in a calendar year but also took the 25-year-old past McCullum’s record tally of 1,164 test runs in 2014.
It moved him top of the International Cricket Council’s world player rankings, the first New Zealand batsman to reach top spot.
McCullum and Williamson are the only New Zealanders to score more than 1,000 test runs in a calendar year, though Williamson, who will end 2015 with 1,172 runs at 90.15, said he did not really focus on milestones.
“It’s always nice to get a score,” Williamson told reporters after he was named Man of the Match.
“But … it means more, I suppose, when you spend some time in the middle and make a larger contribution to a team performance
“The wicket wasn’t easy to bat on. It was extremely important we formulated partnerships along the way. It was nice to do that today and get the team across the line.”
Williamson made a test century on debut against India as a 20-year-old in 2010 and was hailed as having the potential to become New Zealand’s best batsman, even if it took him another 11 tests before he passed 100 again.
Until that 102 not out against South Africa, which saved the match at Wellington’s Basin Reserve in 2012, he had passed 50 just four more times.
The righthander’s tenacity, on full display when he took a nasty blow to the groin from a Dale Steyn delivery that cracked his protective box, indicated his growing maturity.
Since the start of 2014, Williamson has become the backbone of the New Zealand batting lineup and last year flirted with the 1,000 run milestone only to fall just short with 929.
Unlike McCullum, who topped 1,000 runs courtesy of a triple century, two double centuries and an innings of 195 in 2014, Williamson has been the model of consistency in 2015.
He started with 242 not out against Sri Lanka in January and added four more centuries. He also scored four half centuries.
His only failures were at Headingley in Leeds with scores of 0 and six, and last month in Adelaide where he made 22 and nine.
“You always can improve and I think that’s the beauty of international cricket, particularly test cricket, is playing all around the world against different opposition and you constantly have to adapt your game,” he added.
“The most pleasing thing is, I guess each game you set out, you want to contribute as best you can to the team performance and that’s all I want to do, really.
“I just try and keep things as simple as possible.
“Looking at each game as it comes and trying to prepare as best as I can for it – but definitely trying to keep things simple.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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