“Call him fate’s favourite child of yesterday’s game or whatever comes to your mind about the amount of luck he had during the game, his match-winning inning states one thing clearly – you have to show the desire to fight it out in the middle”
Out of the four illustrious players of this modern-day cricketing generation, often dubbed as the ‘fab-four’, the one less talked around in the cricketing galore rose above all in what was the first riveting contest thrown up by the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. A gentleman of 5ft 8in body frame, Kane Williamson’s class stands way tall above his short height. Class of such order that South Africans were left heart-broken yet again after a World Cup clash.
From an ordinary eye’s perspective, it was a group stage clash but ask any South African, whether a fan or a player, it was no less than a virtual quarter-final of sorts with another defeat sounding the death-knell for the Proteas’ World Cup campaign. Omens were not bright right from the start as the Rain-gods were having some fun to delay the start of the match by almost 90 mins resulting in a 49-over affair for each side.
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Skipper Williamson called it right at the coin flip and inserted his opponents on a moisturized deck and this decision was immediately ratified when his bowlers settled into a nice hard length, leaving the South African batsmen in a tight leash. Quinton de Kock went early while Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, and Aiden Markram all got starts but couldn’t capitalize to get the required momentum for the South African inning. Markram was the most aggressive of the three with a strike-rate of 69.09, which pretty much sums up the control with which New Zealand bowlers executed their plans.
Momentum did come to the Proteas inning as Rassie van der Dussen (67) and David Miller (36) ensured a competitive finish on 241/6. Now, the target of 242 wasn’t really intimidating considering the fire-power in the Blackcaps’ batting line-up but such chases, if defended with a proper plan and aggressive mindset, can turn out to be really tricky to overcome. Something similar happened with the Kiwi batsmen as the top-five, barring skipper Williamson, collapsed early to give South Africans a sniff at the victory.
With his team struggling at 80/4, it was another test of character and patience for the skipper. It was his chase to lose not his team’s; as he was, by then, well-accustomed to the treacheries of the rain-hit deck. Williamson was the chosen was for the day and he did act like one as he forged two match-winning partnerships with James Neesham (23) and Colin de Grandhome (60). In the 57-run partnership with Neesham, Williamson doned the dominant role while he let de Grandhomme’s free spirit take over in the second partnership which all but sealed the game in his team’s favor.
When de Grandhome finally fell in the penultimate over leaving 14 to get off the last 11 deliveries, Williamson’s willow carved out two fours and a six over mid-wicket to complete his team’s chase and, in the process, his 12th ODI hundred. All this seems like a rosy tale with struggles in between but an eventual happy ending but it was far from being rosy at all. The Southampton strip wasn’t that friendly even if you had your eyes in – a fact well-vindicated by misses and edges accruing out of Williamson’s attempted shots which were favored by the fate all through his illustrious inning.
Talking about fate, New Zealand were quite lucky that the South Africans couldn’t spot a toe-edge from Williamson’s blade into the gloves of de Kock in what was the last ball of the 38th over. Besides this folly, Williamson also survived a close run-out chance as well when David Miller couldn’t collect the ball cleanly to cut-short Williamson’s match-winning resistance at the crease.
Call him fate’s favourite child of yesterday’s game or whatever comes to your mind about the amount of luck he had during the game, his match-winning inning states one thing clearly – you have to show the desire to fight it out in the middle. Williamson, despite all the chaos unleashed by a dampened pitch, stood his ground because he wanted to win it himself for his team.
Because he had to win it for his nation. Because he was the chosen one to extend New Zealand’s clean World Cup domination of 21st century over the South Africans and all that happened because it’s in his character to simply be there for the grind when his team, his nation, needs him.