Ross Taylor's New Zealand record-equalling 17th test century at Seddon Park yesterday again raises the old chestnut: who is the country's finest test batsman.

Quite clearly New Zealand is fortunate to have both Taylor and Kane Williamson in tandem as possibly the world's best one-two punch at Nos 3 and 4 in the test order.

Williamson, who started his career with a century against India in Ahmedabad in 2010, is poised to go on and become the country's heaviest runmaker and break all the records on offer.

Taylor freely acknowledges that. But that's for somewhere down the line.


Now Taylor has the chance to beat Williamson to become, even if temporarily, the scorer of the most test hundreds for New Zealand.

England arrive for two tests at the finish of the summer. Should Taylor take his chance at Eden Park or Hagley Oval in Christchurch, and Williamson comes up short, the mark will be Taylors. In time, Williamson seems sure to nail it.

Taylor might like the idea of pushing on to become New Zealand's top test runmaker.

Former skipper Stephen Fleming heads that list on 7172 runs and sits 45th on the alltime top list; Brendon McCullum, who took over the captaincy from Taylor at a fractious time within New Zealand cricket, is 54th on 6453. Taylor is 56th and up to 6246 runs.

One player who would win votes in any competition is former captain and national coach Glenn Turner. He would be the odd one out in the group as he was an opener, requiring a different set of skills, a scorer of more than 100 first-class centuries, and a technical master.

But the other three have more tests, higher averages and more centuries to their credit.

How to separate them.

Crowe, the former holder of New Zealand's highest test score, 299 against Sri Lanka in Wellington in 1990-91, had a tough test initiation against Australia's fast-bowling double menace Dennis LIllee and Jeff Thomson, and had a disappointing closing to his career, bedevilled by injury.

He had a dominant presence at the crease and was undoubtedly world class and a perfectionist. Had he played elsewhere in the world where they play more test cricket, there's not much doubt his average would have been several runs higher.

Taylor, 33, had a shaky start to his career in South Africa but once given another opportunity grabbed it with a century against England in Hamilton in 2008.

With that came a realization.

"I could belong, I could play at this level," he said last night.

Six of his centuries have come after turning 30 and his 290 against Australia in Perth two seasons ago was a monument to patience in considerable heat.

Crowe missed his 300 by a solitary single; Taylor came up 10 runs short.

The battle for top dog has tended to be seen as a straight shootout between Crowe and Williamson for the honour of New Zealand's best, but Taylor must now be in any discussion.

Williamson, 27, makes batting look easy, and can score deceptively fast. His is a technique built on total dedication to his craft. His strokemaking is exquisite.

Crowe scored eight of his 17 tons at home; Taylor has scored 10 at home; Williamson 10 away.

In time Williamson will take the crown. His average is already the highest of the three and he's in any discussion about the world's top four batsmen, along with the skippers of Australia (Steven Smith), India (Virat Kohli) and England (Joe Root).

Crowe will always have his spruikers for the mantle while Taylor's record and skill insists he is on the podium.

There are other batsmen from earlier generations who were acknowledged as outstanding batsmen but whose careers were shorter in terms of matches played than this four. Those were the times.

Stewie Dempster (65.72 in 10 tests, eight against a strong England), Martin Donnelly (52.9 from seven tests) are the obvious examples. Bert Sutcliffe (42 tests, 2727 runs at 40.10 with five hundreds) will always be on the shortest of lists to older cricket watchers.

The top three candidates
Martin Crowe: 77 tests, 5444 runs, 45.36 average, 17 x 100, 18 x 50
Kane Williamson: 63, 5214, 50.62, 17/26
Ross Taylor: 83, 6246, 48.04, 17/28