Kane Williamson may have been New Zealand’s hero in their dominant win over Pakistan in the opening one-day international in Wellington on Saturday, but he said it was not a game for heroics.
“You’re always thinking about the role you need to play and the situation of the game, and it certainly didn’t require something silly,” Williamson said after New Zealand beat the Champions Trophy holders by 61 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis system.
New Zealand made 315 for seven in their 50 overs and had the tourists at 166 for six when rain stopped play in the 31st over.
Pakistan had arrived on a nine-match winning streak but fresh from playing in more accommodating conditions than the 120 kilometre an hour (75 mph) winds and rain that greeted them in Wellington.
After being sent in to bat, Colin Munro (58) and Martin Guptill (48) gave New Zealand a flying start with 83 for the first wicket before Williamson went to the middle with the dismissal of Munro in the 13th over.
While the openers plundered the boundaries, Williamson’s 115 off 117 deliveries came from a diet of ones and twos with only eight fours and one six.
“It was holding in the wicket a little bit, and you come to a point in your innings where you either address it sensibly and accept that’s what it is doing, or you do something silly,” Williamson said.
“Today I was a little bit more sensible and accepting of the fact that they did bowl well for a long time there, and I felt we were perhaps fortunate to get that above 300 score.
“They did execute their plans well, the wind was tough to deal with, and maybe that’s where we gained an upper hand, but you do ebb and flow through an innings.”
Williamson, who was dropped on 26 by Pakistan wicketkeeper and captain Sarfraz Ahmed, also featured in a 90-run partnership off 80 balls with Henry Nicholls before he was caught by Hasan Ali off Rumman Raees in the 48th over.
Ali was central in most of the key New Zealand wickets with the dismissals of Munroe, Nicholls (50) and Ross Taylor (12) to finish with three for 61.
Pakistan were in trouble in the very first over of their reply when Tim Southee took the wickets of Azhar Ali and Babar Azam, both lbw.
Fakhar Zaman battled bravely to try to restore the Pakistan innings and was unbeaten on 82, the only innings of note, when rain stopped play and Southee had the figures of three for 22.
“It’s a setback for us, especially after losing two wickets in the first over,” said Sarfraz who also shouldered part of the blame for his own fielding lapse.
“The New Zealand’s batsmen batted well, especially Kane Williamson. If you drop catches, it becomes tough. Hopefully we will sit together and come up with a better performance next time.”
The second match in the five-match series is in Nelson on Tuesday.
Usman Khawaja plundered a big century as Australia roasted England’s bowlers on Saturday to open up a 133-run lead with two days to play in the final Ashes Test in Sydney.
Khawaja top-scored with 171 while Shaun Marsh finished unbeaten on 98 after Steve Smith fell for 83 as Australia built a substantial lead with more runs to come and intense 40 Celsius (104 F) heat forecast for Sunday’s fourth day.
Australia have already regained the Ashes with an unassailable 3-0 lead and are looking to close out the series 4-0 after last week’s fourth test in Melbourne was drawn.
At the close of play on a dispiriting third day for the tourists, who took just two wickets, brothers Shaun and Mitchell Marsh were making merry in an unbroken 104-run partnership as Australia cruised to 479 for four.
Mitchell Marsh clubbed Moeen Ali for two sixes in three balls to be 63 not out off 87 balls at stumps after surviving a leg before wicket review in the final overs.
Khawaja batted for 515 minutes off 381 balls with 18 fours and a six for his maiden Ashes Test hundred.
“You don’t get to celebrate Test centuries too much unless you’re Steve Smith. You’ve got to enjoy them when they come,” Khawaja said.
It was the Pakistan-born Khawaja’s sixth Test hundred and first in Sydney and came at a time when some former players were calling for his sacking despite scoring two half-centuries earlier in the series.
“It’s disappointing,” Khawaja said of the criticism.
“When I am scoring runs, I’m elegant and when I’m not scoring runs I’m lazy. Can’t seem to win, when things aren’t going well.
“I’ve had that throughout my career. It’s disappointing to hear but it’s something I have dealt with throughout my career.”
He fell three runs short of his highest Test score of 174 scored against New Zealand in Brisbane in 2015.
Debutant Mason Crane ended Khawaja’s epic innings to capture his first Test wicket when he had him stumped by Jonny Bairstow with a sharp turner that left the Australian No.3 stranded out of his ground.
It was due reward for the Hampshire leg spinner, who endured the heartbreak of having a leg before wicket review rubbed out for a borderline no-ball when Khawaja was on 132 earlier in the day.
Crane, who at 20 is the youngest specialist spinner to play for England in 90 years, showed plenty of heart to keep plugging away without much luck until dismissing Khawaja.
Crane finished a challenging day with one wicket for 135 off 39 overs.
“It was a pretty tough day,” Bairstow said. “We’re 150 overs into the innings so there’s going to be a few tired bodies out there.
“I thought the way the guys toiled out there and really worked hard was impressive and that’s really good to see for us as a side going forward.”
Shaun Marsh reached his fourth half-century of the series and survived a review on 22 for a catch behind off Joe Root after the “Snicko” and “Hot Spot” technology could not find supporting evidence.
England earlier claimed Smith’s prized wicket before lunch when Ali caught and bowled the Australian skipper when he seemed set to make his fourth century of the series.
Smith, who looked untroubled batting patiently through the morning session, left the field shaking his head after batting for 253 minutes and facing 158 balls.
Smith and Khawaja seized the momentum for Australia with a 188-run stand as England chase a face-saving win after surrendering the Ashes after just three matches.
The skipper has been one of the key differences between the two sides in the series, amassing 687 runs at an average of 137.40 with a top score of 239, his Test best.
There was drama in the final over before lunch when Khawaja survived a review for leg before wicket but only after Crane had been found to have just overstepped for a no-ball.
It was Test cricket at its very best as the world’s No.1 and No.2 sides went head-to-head in the first of a mouthwatering three-match series.
Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis won the toss and elected to bat first. By the close of play, the hosts had managed to get themselves to 286 runs after an early morning wobble. In reply, India were in big trouble at 28-3 before stumps were called.
We look at the good and bad after a fantastic exhibition between bat and ball.
BHUVNESHWAR KUMAR’S SCORCHES PROTEAS TOP ORDER
The Newlands curator had promised seam movement from day one and he duly delivered on that as Bhuvneshwar Kumar made the most of the conditions on offer.
The seamer removed South Africa’s top three in a three-over burst at the start of the day showing fantastic control of the red-ball as he generated movement both ways.
He removed Dean Elgar with one that seamed away from middle-stump in the first over and then dismissed Aiden Markram with one that nipped in after pitching. The third was the biggest of them all as he got Hashim Amla to poke at one moving away from the right-hander to make it three wickets in as many overs.
He returned to remove Quinton De Kock who was threatening to take the game away from India to complete a fantastic display.
AB DE VILLIERS’ BRILLIANT COUNTER-ATTACK
With the Proteas in dire straits at 12-3, it was left to the pair of Du Plessis and AB De Villiers to rescue the side, something the duo have done many times over the course of their careers.
De Villiers had only just returned to the Test arena after a two-year hiatus in the one-off four-day game against Zimbabwe on Boxing Day but he rolled back the years on Friday with a characteristic counter-attacking knock that took the edge off India’s charged up attack.
He shuffled across off-stump with regularity to create his own angles as he drove and cut with swagger. The 33-year-old piled on the runs in quick time as he found boundaries at will. He combined to put on a 114-run stand with his skipper and notched up his 41st Test fifty on the way before becoming Jasprit Bumrah’s maiden scalp.
INDIA’S SLIP CATCHING WOES RESURFACE
The visitors’ slip-catching has not been on point for some time with some big sitters being dropped in the cordon in the past year or so.
Virat Kohli’s team selection meant India’s best-slip fielder in Ajinkya Rahane did not take the field. There were no dropped chances of the big South African batsmen thankfully but there was a warning sign for things to come when Shikar Dhawan dropped a sitter off the edge of Keshav Maharaj in the final session.
While this drop did not turn out to be too costly for India, they will need to massively up their game in this department as the series progresses.
INDIA’S BATSMEN FAIL IN THEIR FIRST TEST
India’s hope of ushering in a new era overseas took a battering in their very first hurdle as their age-old failings against the seaming ball came back to haunt them.
With 14 overs to see out before the close of play for the Indian batsmen, it was always going to be a testing period against the Proteas pace quartet and it was one they failed at miserably. The openers and Kohli fell cheaply as India’s top-order mirrored South Africa’s collapse.
However, the fact that all three of India’s dismissals could have been avoided with some sensible batting. Murali Vijay chased a cover drive off a Vernon Philander delivery outside off while Dhawan attempted to pull Dale Steyn when he was in no position to do so.
Kohli’s dismissal will grate the skipper hard after he attempted to play at a steep rising delivery from Morne Morkel outside his off-stump. At 28-3, the visitors have thrown away the advantage they had gained in the morning and will be in for another baptism with fire when they come out to bat on Saturday morning.