New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson slammed his maiden century in the World Cup as South Africa's semi-final hopes hung by a thread. (Image credit: Getty Images)
The New Zealand vs South Africa clash in Edgbaston in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 was poised on a knife-edge. New Zealand were 80/4 in their chase of 242 on an Edgbaston wicket that was becoming difficult for strokeplay. However, they had Kane Williamson, their skipper who epitomised calmness and the ability to doggedly fight under pressure. Williamson’s qualities were ideal in this kind of situation. He found an able ally in Jimmy Neesham as they stitched a 57-run stand. When Neesham fell, they were still a long way away. However, Colin de Grandhomme took the pitch out of the equation and smashed 60 off 47 balls to stitch a 91-run stand. When de Grandhomme fell, New Zealand needed seven off five balls and anything could happen.
However, Williamson has the ability to read the situation and the conditions brilliantly. Andile Phehlukwayo bowled a full off-cutter outside off, Williamson bent down and slog swept it into the stands at deep midwicket. The scores were tied. Williamson had notched up his first World Cup hundred that too in style. Next ball, Williamson steered a widish ball past backward point for a boundary and New Zealand had defeated South Africa for the fourth time in World Cups.
The magic which Williamson generated with that six, considering the circumstances that New Zealand had to undergo, was special. When one looks at the pressure quotient, Williamson’s century matches up to the knock he played in Eden Park, Auckland against Australia in the 2015 World Cup.
New Zealand had a feeling of joy when they bowled out Australia for 152 with Trent Boult taking 5/24, including a spell of 5/1 which ripped the Australian middle order apart. In response, Brendon McCullum started off in blazing fashion and New Zealand was comfortably placed. Mitchell Starc, though, had other ideas and he bowled one of the spells of the tournament as his 6/28 almost helped Australia pull off a miraculous win.
With six runs needed and with only one wicket remaining, Williamson held the key. Pat Cummins came to bowl. Williamson knew that he needed one good hit and he could not rely on the tailenders. Williamson made a bit of room, Cummins bowled a full ball on middle and leg stump, Williamson lofted a straight drive to long on, the shortest boundary in Eden Park. Ian Smith, the former New Zealand keeper who was commentating on air, bellowed, “Straight down the ground. It has gone for six. Kane Williamson has won it for New Zealand.”
The reaction of Williamson confirmed his greatness. A wry smile, just a small pump of the fist and New Zealand had gotten the better of their trans-Tasman rivals. Four years later, after six, he showed no emotions. The skipper took off his helmet, raised the bat to acknowledge his century but he still remained focused. His appraisal of the knock was modest.
Those two sixes in 2015 and 2019 by Williamson was massive. Australia’s only loss in the entire tournament came because of Williamson’s knock. South Africa’s semi-final hopes are all but over due to THAT Williamson six. For New Zealand, those two sixes are indeed magical in their fortunes, all thanks to Williamson.