Kane Williamson has often been criticised for his strike rate in the shortest format of the game but the New Zealand skipper was at his best against Ireland in a must-win T20 World Cup 2022 encounter in Adelaide. The right-hander crafted 61 off 35 deliveries and played a key role in New Zealand confirming their spot in the semi-finals.
Prior to this game, Williamson had a strike rate of just 112.7 in 10 T20Is this year. Against England, the 32-year-old scored a run-a-ball 40 and the Black Caps ended up losing the game by 20 runs. However, he looked in pretty good touch today and slammed five fours and three maximums during his stay in the middle.
"I was trying to make good decisions and bat within a partnership. It was nice that throughout the innings we were able to build a lot of those partnerships. I thought the guys at the top of the order got us off to a really nice start on a surface that was difficult to be fluent on straight away, and the likes of Finn Allen who managed to get a big over in the powerplay and even Devon to support him in that," said Williamson after New Zealand defeated Ireland by 35 runs.
"I think sometimes you can look at some of the innings without context, but for us, that platform was a really important part to us getting a good total today. I don't think there's any sort of magic bullet, but it was nice to get a couple away and build a bit of momentum with the partners at the other end. And you're always wanting to try and get that momentum and take those options and feel quite good about it. So it was nice to make a contribution today.
"More importantly, it was nice we were able to build partnerships throughout as a team, and like I mentioned, the top both really valuable contributions for our side and then throughout with Glenn coming in and doing what he's been doing all tournament and Daryl as well. So it was a nice total to have at the halfway stage. And I thought the bowlers, after being put under pressure early, did a really nice job to adjust and change their pace a little bit and make it nice and difficult for our position."
Chasing a target of 186, Ireland were 68 for no loss at the end of eight overs. However, that's when Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi got the first two wickets and Ireland could never recover from that. They could only manage 150/9 in their 20 overs.
"They (NZ bowlers) have been outstanding, and they were put under pressure today in the game early on and didn't get much assistance in terms of swing but knew that throughout that middle period we could make some adjustments and try to make it difficult for Ireland. They were able to do that, and that's the experience that's in the camp.
"But every team you come up against has different strengths, and you play at different grounds, and you're having to really think on your feet and adjust your plans. But they've all done it for a long time, so it's nice to see them operating together."
Talking about Santner (2/26), Williamson said: “Mitch has been a great player for us, being an all-rounder as well, but certainly a top-class spinner and reads the game really well. I think with his action he can see the batsman make adjustments and change what he's looking to do. He has a lot of variety and really clear with how he wants to operate. So he's been a huge part of our side for a long time.
"We face him obviously quite a bit (in the nets). He's quite tall, and he can change the angle of a seam and get the ball to drop, or bowl those side spinners and make those adjustments on a variety of surfaces we're faced with all around the world. So he's always a tough customer to face."
The Black Caps have constantly made it through to the knockout stage of the white-ball tournaments but haven't been able to cross that final hurdle. "At the end of the day, it's another game of cricket, another opportunity as a team to try to put together a strong performance. That's something that we can try to control to the best of our ability.
“In the past, there's been some good tournaments and everything in between. Yeah, for us it's just focusing on what's happening now, and I guess in the next few days getting a slightly clearer picture of who we might play and where we might play."