Cricket: Kane Williamson joins select group of NZ captains

By David Leggat

Kane Williamson. Photo / George Novak
Kane Williamson. Photo / George Novak

Thirteen men have captained New Zealand in test cricket and never savoured victory as leader.

From the other perspective, there are 16 who have, but only five of them snared a victory at their first attempt in charge.

So Kane Williamson is in a relatively small group after his team secured an innings and 117-run win over Zimbabwe in Bulawayo yesterday with over a day to spare.

Two of the five remain among New Zealand's most momentous test wins, those over England in 1978 - the first victory against them in 49 years of trying - and the cliffhanging one-wicket win over the West Indies in Dunedin two years later.

One of them, that of Graham Dowling's team against India, was built on a tremendous personal performance, his 239, still the ninth-best score by a New Zealand batsman and for 35 years after it the best by a New Zealand captain.

By an oddity, Ross Taylor's first test win also came at Bulawayo's Queens' Club. His unbeaten 173 this time won him man of the match, even if he magnanimously suggested his team mate Neil Wagner, for his six-wicket bag in Zimbabwe's first innings, was more deserving in the context of the way the test unfolded.

Williamson is right to be delighted with the victory.

For all the mocking of Zimbabwe's test standards - and they are certainly more awkward one-day opponents - there was still a job to be done, and by and large New Zealand kept their eye on the ball.

The bowlers followed the script in the first innings, but forgot the plot lines for a time on the final day as Sean Williams' memorable, often exhilarating century, put them under scrutiny not felt until then.

The batting collective made sure the bowlers' first innings work wasn't wasted with a conscientious display.

It would have been easy to have looked to go on a tear against an unremarkable seam attack but Williamson had called for a policy of shutting the door on the opposition and, led by Taylor and fellow centurymakers Tom Latham and BJ Watling, instructions were followed to the letter.

"The bowlers did a fantastic job, which makes any captain's job easier," Williamson said. "At the same time on a surface like this you want to try and make things hostile and difficult for the opposition, but at the same time you do need to be patient and build pressure at times.

"We probably got away from that, if we're being a little critical in the second innings, and we'll take those lessons into next game."

So Williamson, test captain, is off and running on the best possible note.

The second test begins on the same ground on Saturday.

Captains victorious

New Zealand's winning captains on debut

• Graham Dowling: v India, by six wickets, Christchurch, Feb 1968.

• Mark Burgess: v England, 72 runs, Wellington, Feb 1978.

• Geoff Howarth: v West Indies, 1 wicket, Dunedin, Feb 1980.

• Ross Taylor: v Zimbabwe, 34 runs, Bulawayo, Nov 2011.

• Kane Williamson: v Zimbabwe, innings and 117 runs, Bulawayo, July 2016.

- NZ Herald

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