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Cricket: Williamson absorbed in Lord's challenge

Kane Williamson gives the impression this week is like Christmas and his gift from New Zealand Cricket has been a free pass to go on all the rides at his favourite theme park, Lord's.

What else can you say when a bloke waddles to his interview in pads, sporting a beaming smile. The 22-year-old's already completed his first net of the day by 9.30am. The early outing even had a specific emphasis: countering seam bowling.

You could be forgiven for branding Williamson with a moniker like Mr Cricket to match that of Australia's Michael Hussey. He is completely absorbed in the game.

If it is a theme park, Williamson's about to line up for the rollercoaster when he takes his place in the visitors' dressing room for New Zealand's 16th test at Lord's tonight.

He recognises the peripheral hype that comes with the occasion but, given his renowned level head, is equally determined to filter it out.

Sure, it's not "just another test match" but channelling anxiety and angst into performance is the puzzle to solve.

"Naturally, whenever you play a test at big grounds different pressures can affect you,"he says. "You need to keep making small steps to put those peripheral things to the side. When you're relaxed and clear, a routine can happen instinctively. You're able to let your game go."

If any New Zealander is to join the 16 on the visitors' honours board, Williamson must be at short odds. His three other test centuries each came in high-pressure circumstances. He made his first on debut against India in 2010, his second came to save a test against South Africa in 2012 and his third was part of a 262-run third wicket stand with Ross Taylor in Sri Lanka to help resurrect New Zealand's test reputation after five straight losses.

Williamson has put in meticulous preparation behind the scenes - right down to the reaction of his sinuses - to give his instinct room to roam. He spent 10 days with Gloucestershire, under former New Zealand coach John Bracewell, in the build-up. Williamson has played for the county over the past two seasons.

"I even got used to batting with a runny nose in the cold. I have a good relationship with John. It worked from a skill perspective and he's someone to bounce ideas off and spend time with."

Other than a Lord's tour with the New Zealand under-19s and a brief appearance in one of Gloucestershire's pro-40 one-day games, Williamson's relationship with the ground is limited. He says he didn't even walk out to bat through the Long Room. However, the memories are etched, particularly at lunchtime.

"The meals are outstanding. I think I had a stir fry. You take a seat, order from the little menu on the wall, and wait to be served. They do it so well. Everything that happens is done to a 'T', right down to the polished cutlery.

"You always want to play at Lord's but you start to understand the importance of playing here as you grow up."

- Herald on Sunday

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