Two days prior to the start of the second Test scheduled on 10th of June at Edgbaston New Zealand suffered a blow in the form of Mitchell Santner who cut his spinning finger during the first Test. Meanwhile, a bigger threat was looming as their skipper Kane Williamson was also under an injury cloud, nursing his left elbow. The Kiwis head coach Gary Stead did not offer much reassurance and said that the management would take a call on Williamson’s availability on the eve of the match.
A day prior to the match, Blackcaps management confirmed that Williamson is ruled out of the second Test and Will Young to bat at number three. On a somewhat encouraging note, the New Zealand coach was confident that Williamson’s injury wasn’t a big one and will not affect his participation in the WTC Final starting 18th June against India. In his absence, Tom Latham will be in charge for the second Test against England. This results in extra weightage on the shoulders of the seniors like Ross Taylor and BJ Watling.
The impact of Williamson for the Kiwis in recent times has been immense. Since the start of 2019, no other New Zealand batsman has scored as many runs as he has. More importantly, he has scored those runs at a staggering average of 66.5. Among batsmen who have batted at least 10 innings since the aforementioned time, only Marnus Labuschagne (66.8) averages more than him. Among the Blackcaps batsmen, he is the only one to average over 45 after batting 10+ innings since 2019. This isn’t just a purple patch that he has hit in the last few years. Since the year 2014, Williamson has averaged less than 50 only in one calendar year: 2016. This is one of the reasons why he is among the so-called fab four of the modern era.
What’s more important is that most of his runs have come in a winning cause. Since the start of 2019, none of Williamson’s half-centuries has gone in vain. Out of the five centuries and three half-centuries, only one century has come in a draw. He has an average of 108.1 in wins in this time frame. Among players who have been involved in at least five wins since 2019, he is the only batsmen to average over 100. The next best is David Warner (79.6).
Williamson missing matches has been a rare sight. Since 2019, he has missed only two matches and New Zealand have won one and lost another. The win was on the back of their bowling. Their batsmen have averaged only 28.2 in those two matches. On the contrary, New Zealand batsmen have averaged 40.9 with Williamson being a part of the XI. Though it’s a matter of only two matches, the difference has been clinical. Agonizingly, the likes of Taylor and Watling have been affected the most.
THE SORRY TALE OF TAYLOR AND WATLING IN THE ABSENCE OF KANE
As said earlier, Williamson has missed two matches for New Zealand since 2019. In general, the seasoned players need to step up in the absence of their premier player. But, for Taylor and Watling, things have gone south in the two matches when Williamson was not in the XI. Surprisingly, their designated night-watchman Neil Wagner has the highest score of 66* in these matches whereas, Taylor (53) and Watling (58) have scored just over 50 across three innings. With the series on the line, at least one of Taylor or Watling need to pull up their socks.
As a matter of fact, the stand-in skipper Latham as well has had his troubles. Henry Nicholls has been the most successful batsmen in the absence of Williamson and his replacement Young has had decent success. With a little support from the senior pro’s, New Zealand will be hoping they can seal the series and regain the number one spot. It is true that Williamson didn’t play a big part in the drawn first Test, but, his absence is something that might still sting.