Black Caps captain Kane Williamson is no stranger to being part of Bay Oval's major milestones but today's one - his home town ground's first test cricket match - is very special.

He was one of the first cricketers to score a century at Bay Oval, while playing for the Bay of Plenty under 19 side.

"I don't really remember that actually," Williamson says.

Today, as the Mount Maunganui venue hosts their first test match - the longest, oldest and grandest version of the game, played over five days with a red ball and white clothes, Williamson is again a key figure in that milestone as the captain of the Black Caps. It is here the Black Caps play their first of two test matches against England.


"Very special. All the hard work that's gone in to get the ground to a state where they can get that status, test status, is you know, a brilliant effort and then to get a game across the line, a game against England ... is a fantastic occasion and I know it will be well supported throughout the test match, so it's great to be a part of," Williamson said during a press conference at the Mount Maunganui venue yesterday.

Even England's captain Joe Root acknowledged the occasion.

"I am very excited for him [Williamson] to get the opportunity to captain his team on his home ground, in his home town looking forward very much to a good series of cricket," Root said.

While Bay Oval has hosted international and first-class matches in the past, Williamson says his team doesn't have an advantage when it comes to playing on the grounds.

"There have been a couple of first class games here. The one-day surfaces have been very, very good, but hard probably to take too much from those.

"Also the rules with rollers and these sorts of things in first class cricket mean that it can be quite hard to get a true read on the surface, but generally a pretty good surface, it's had some really good games of cricket on it. I think the last one, sort of day five, it was a tight one the ND versus Central Districts. There are unknowns for both teams that's for sure but I think both teams are just looking forward to getting into it."

Black Caps captain Kane Williamson pictured at training ahead of Bay Oval's first test match between the Black Caps and England. Photo / Alan Gibson
Black Caps captain Kane Williamson pictured at training ahead of Bay Oval's first test match between the Black Caps and England. Photo / Alan Gibson

Today's match is also the return of Tauranga-based Williamson, who missed the T20I series against England with a re-occurring right-hip injury. He says he feels good and prepared even though it's "hard to know what perfect is".

"We know we're up against a very good side but it is always about us coming back to the things that we want to execute in playing our style of cricket and if we do that well, that gives us the best chance of success."


One of the benefits of playing test cricket at home is also being able to go home at the end of each night.

"It's nice, it's something different, I don't think it does much else. I haven't done it before."

England's captain, Joe Root, says he was keeping an open mind about playing at a venue that had not hosted test cricket before.

"There are a number of grounds that you turn up to as an international player that you've never played on, still you want to try and get as much information as possible, but in many ways it's the same for both sides. On this occasion, granted they've al played some first class cricket here and have obviously a little but more knowledge, but general rule its pretty even.

"I think more importantly, whatever we do first we adapt very quickly to it and try and find ways of getting the best out of it. Try and keep it as simple as that and not have too many preconceived ideas of how it's going to play."

Read more about the Black Caps vs England on page 23.