Cricket comment: Kane Williamson can make Yorkshire a major force

New Zealand's Kane Williamson: Back at Headingley this summer.
New Zealand's Kane Williamson: Back at Headingley this summer.
Have your say

“BRILLIANT 100 from Kane Williamson. Come to @EmeraldStadium this summer and watch him playing for @Yorkshire CCC #YourYorkshire”.

Steve Denison, the Yorkshire chairman, is not slow to spot a marketing opportunity.

Tweeting a television picture of Williamson, bat raised as he reached his 11th one-day international hundred in the third ODI in Wellington on Saturday, Denison’s pride was palpable as Yorkshire prepare to welcome back the New Zealander for his fourth spell with the club.

Although Williamson’s unbeaten 112 narrowly failed to prevent England from going 2-1 up in the five-match series, with the tourists claiming a tense four-run win, it was a sign that he is running into form ahead of the Test series and his stint with Yorkshire later in the year.

Williamson will play four County Championship and 11 Vitality Blast games, starting with the T20 trip to Durham on July 13. Allied to the recruitment of India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara and Australia pace bowler Billy Stanlake, Yorkshire have strong overseas cover for this season, sufficient to suggest that, given a fair wind and a dash of good fortune, they can mount a serious challenge in all three formats.

Like England’s Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, his Yorkshire team-mates, Williamson is a man for all formats, a player who can adapt whatever colour the ball might be.

The 27-year-old has the skill to construct an innings with a craftsman’s touch, or to belt the ball with a blacksmith’s power. He is a threat in first-class, one-day and T20 cricket.

An outwardly unemotional and self-controlled character, which merely adds to his aura, not even Williamson could mask his disappointment as he left the field in Wellington on Saturday, having narrowly failed to engineer a win that would have left his side, rather than Eoin Morgan’s, one game from clinching a series that continues in Dunedin on Tuesday/Wednesday UK time and concludes in Christchurch on Friday/Saturday.

In a rare show of disappointment, Williamson cut a crestfallen figure as he returned to a dressing room that had let him down as New Zealand chased 235.

At 80-1 in the 18th over, that target was by no means a formality but nor was it the most formidable challenge imaginable after England’s innings contained plenty of starts but no big score – Morgan’s 48 the highest. But a collapse to 103-6 knocked the stuffing out of New Zealand as spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid shared five wickets.

The sixth wicket to fall, that of Colin de Grandhomme, was a particularly profligate one, the batsman slogging Moeen down the throat of long-on. It was the sort of shot that Williamson would play only if his mind was scrambled by some sort of deadly insect bite that had robbed him of his mental faculties.

But England’s journey to victory was delayed by a seventh-wicket stand of 96 between Williamson and Mitchell Santner that put the contest back in the balance.

One-day games often turn in an instant, and this one tipped England’s way when Chris Woakes inadvertently ran out Santner at the non-striker’s end after getting a fingertip to a difficult return catch offered by Williamson.

It is one of the worst ways for a batsman to get out, and it was the first time that England had dismissed Santner in the series, his 41 following an unbeaten 63 in Mount Maunganui and an undefeated 45 in Hamilton.

Although Williamson did his best to repair the damage, England held on thanks to good bowling from Woakes and Tom Curran, proving that they can win a tight match with the ball as well as engineer comfortable wins with their all-round batting strength.

Now England are within sight of their fifth successive ODI series victory as they gear up for next year’s World Cup, where they will be strongly fancied on home soil.

New Zealand, on the evidence of what we have seen so far, are not quite in England’s class, and they will need more than the wondrous Williamson to pull this series out of the bag.