By Andrew Alderson in Cardiff
Among the jewels in New Zealand's opening World Cup cricket victory over Sri Lanka was Kane Williamson's captaincy.
From his wheelhouse - alternating between mid-off and mid-on - he issued the orders to execute a near perfect plan to dismantle Sri Lanka's batting order. They appear one of the weaker sides in the tournament, but for the Black Caps to restrict them to 136 in 29.2 overs and win by 10 wickets with 203 balls to spare was nothing less than emphatic. A green mamba morphed into a verdant road.
There are few funky field placements or zany manoeuvres in Williamson's tactical portfolio, just common sense and definitive decisions to imbue his bowlers with confidence.
Exhibit A was the call to persevere with Matt Henry. Williamson set an attacking field and allowed the right-armer to settle in with a seven-over spell. That was key in refuelling Henry's campaign confidence after getting tonked in the warm-up against the West Indies. He trudged away from that match with two wickets for 107 runs – an economy rate of 11.88 - from nine overs. There were no maidens…
Cardiff presented a "Dear Santa" situation for the Cantabrian. He got picked after Tim Southee picked up a right calf strain; the Sophia Gardens pitch was Kermit-green; and Williamson won the toss.
Henry secured the wicket of Lahiru Thirimanne lbw after a review. Williamson was resolute in asking umpire Ian Gould to refer it, and New Zealand had a wicket with the second ball of the match.
Seven unchanged overs later Henry had figures of three for 29 and had resurrected his tournament mojo. Imagine his vitality storming in with three slips in place in an ODI. Fast bowlers must dream of such luxuries.
It's unclear what this means for Southee. He seemed a logical bet to return to the New Zealand attack after Henry's Bristol struggles, given his record of 25 wickets at 28.16 in 16 ODIs in England. Now that decision is blurred and, as Williamson mentioned before the tournament, presents "good problems".
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Williamson kept gliding through his bowling gears. Lockie Ferguson came on first change for Boult, then Jimmy Neesham and Mitchell Santner melded into the fray. Importantly, every bowler took at least one wicket, helped by fielders pursuing the ball like it was scampering off with their wallet. Three – Henry, Lockie Ferguson and Colin de Grandhomme even struck in their first overs, further embellishing the vibe.
And all the time, Williamson ran the cutter with his steady temperament. Behind the iridescent sunglasses, zinced lips and coiffed beard lies a cricketing mind driven as much by empathy for teammates as winning at all costs. That can only bode well the further they advance in the tournament.