It’s no longer hyperbole to say Kane Williamson belongs alongside Don Bradman in sporting lore.
For now — but likely not for long — the Kiwi great stands level with the Australian legend in scoring 29 test centuries, achieving that heady billing late on the second day of the first test against Bangladesh.
Williamson’s knock of 104 lifted the Black Caps to 266-8 at stumps in Sylhet, trailing the hosts’ first innings by 44 runs, while lifting him into the company of cricket immortality in 16th on the test century standings.
The 33-year-old also became the first New Zealander to score hundreds in four consecutive tests, having earlier this year lit up the home summer against England and Sri Lanka.
Given the way he batted both last night and during the ODI World Cup, it’s easy to forget that between the third and fourth of those tons Williamson tore a knee ligament and fractured a thumb.
By averaging 85.3 in four innings in India, he showed his abundant powers extended to rehabilitation, rushing back from surgery to repair the first injury before overcoming the second during the tournament.
By reaching three figures in Bangladesh and, as always, almost reluctantly raising his bat, Williamson issued a superfluous reminder that he remained the linchpin in this Black Caps lineup.
The former skipper established handy partnerships on day two with Henry Nicholls, Daryl Mitchell and Glenn Phillips. But that trio departed before making substantial scores, exemplifying both Williamson’s importance and the increasingly difficult nature of the pitch.
So difficult, in fact, that even Williamson offered his opposition a few chances. In one over alone, while on 63, the No 3 survived a big lbw shout, gloved an opportunity just short of leg slip and escaped a dreadful drop by Taijul Islam.
It will be a challenging surface for the tourists to chase a target of moderate size in the fourth innings, no matter the callow nature of the Bangladesh attack. But the magnitude of that eventual task will be eased by the experience of the man striding to the crease at first drop.
Williamson, playing his 95th test, made that walk earlier than he might have expected yesterday.
First, Tim Southee needed only one delivery to wrap up the hosts’ first innings on 310. Next, Tom Latham was unable to banish a middling run of form that afflicted his World Cup campaign, top-edging an attempted sweep from Taijul to fall for 21.
Shoriful Islam, the only seamer in the Bangladesh team, set about testing Devon Conway with an unerring length. The opener passed that examination but fell to a similarly challenging spell from Mehidy Hasan, who had an early lbw review denied before removing his man for 12.
Williamson began by scoring at an atypically quick rate, advancing the Black Caps to 78-2 at lunch. But the middle session became more of a grind, with Nicholls (19) nicking behind when tempted to play by Shoriful.
Mitchell, like Williamson and Latham, continued his World Cup form by attacking from the outset, making the most of a life on four when Bangladesh neglected to review what would have been a dismissal for caught behind.
He and Williamson settled into a period of steady accumulation, the latter reaching his half-century from 75 balls. But when Mitchell (41 off 54) pulled close, his aggressive approach proved his undoing, skipping out of his crease to be deceived by Taijul and stumped.
Having reached tea on 168-4, Tom Blundell didn’t last long before feathering an edge behind from a wide legside delivery, giving Phillips his first test innings since scoring a half-century and duck on debut against Australia in 2020.
Phillips (42 off 62) collected quick runs in an innings-high stand of 78 before edging to slip from part-timer Mominul Haque’s first over, an appropriate dismissal given the damage he did with the ball on day one.
Taijul (4-89) then ended the day with some redemption for his drop of Williamson, bowling out the centurion and adding Ish Sodhi to leave the tourists staring at a first-innings deficit.