New Zealand managing to draw the second and final Test of the two-match series against England came down to two major factors: the first of which was a Day 5 pitch that provided little assistance to the visiting team’s bowlers.
The other one was a lot harder to negate: the presence of New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, inarguably one of the finest batsmen of his generation, at the crease.
England knew that his wicket was the prize one and yet gave him not one, but two reprieves early in the day – the second one the worse of the two, with Joe Denly dropping a regulation catch at short mid-wicket and setting social media abuzz with memes and reactions.
And while Jofra Archer saw the funny side of the drop, deep down England knew that not taking those opportunities would come back to haunt them.
England Rue Missed Chances
England started the day needing eight wickets to secure the victory but have now lost back-to-back away series’ to New Zealand and have not won a Test in the country in seven straight attempts.
A lot of that came down to Williamson, who along with Ross Taylor managed to blunt any hopes the visitors may have had of ending the day with a win.
Williamson was circumspect in the early parts of the day but with rain predicted towards the end of the day, came out flying in the third session while on 96.
That approach almost cost him when he was on 97 and took off for a single that was never quite on but he reached his 21st Test century shortly thereafter, with Taylor soon doing the same.
Incidentally, four of Williamson’s tons have come at Hamilton – the most number of tons he has scored in any ground.
He is also the second New Zealand skipper to score 8 Test tons after Stephen Fleming, getting to the feat in significantly fewer Tests.
His ton in the second Test overshadowed England counterpart Joe Root’s efforts in the match. Root, who is under pressure both as a captain and a batsman, hit a double ton that helped his side take a sizeable first innings lead of 101 runs.
Root was adjudged the Man of the Match yet it was Williamson’s knock which remained the defining moment of the Test.
Battle with Smith Looms Large
Williamson’s century came at just the right time as far as New Zealand is concerned – they will play a three-Test series in Australia from next week.
Aside from being a battle between two sporting rivals the series will also pit Williamson against Steve Smith, with both being in fine form in the longest format of the game.
Smith wasn’t called upon to deliver during the recent series against Pakistan but was in fine form during his return to Test cricket earlier this year during the Ashes.
He scored three centuries – including one double hundred at Old Trafford – and could have had three more as Australia went on to retain the Ashes and has scored 814 runs thus far in the year.
Williamson’s numbers over the past twelve months, while not quite of the same magnitude, are also impressive nonetheless – he has scored 826 runs that include three tons and four half-centuries.
In fact, Williamson’s numbers over the past 12 months are also better than Root’s returns – the England captain has scored 774 runs, including two centuries and four fifties.
Only India captain Virat Kohli – who has scored 871 runs that include three hundreds and three half-centuries – has had a better last twelve months than Williamson.
Yet mere numbers don’t do justice to the talents of these men and the battle between Williamson and Smith will be fascinating to watch, especially as their form holds the key to victory for both their respective sides.