Experience of playing on slower tracks will prove beneficial: Williamson

Birmingham: Skipper Kane Williamson struck a composed unbeaten century as New Zealand virtually knocked South Africa out of the World Cup with a four-wicket victory in a last over finish here Wednesday.

Chasing a target of 242 in 49 overs in rain-truncated match, New Zealand recovered from a mini slump at 137 for five riding on a 91-run stand between Williamson (106 not out off 138 balls) and Collin de Grandhomme (60 off 47 balls) to reach home with three balls to spare.

Adjudged man of the match, Kane Williamson, believes the experience of playing here will hold his team in good stead.

“It’s just really nice to build those sort of partnerships with that lower-middle order that were so important, and having that experience in those sorts of situations as a collective is a really beneficial thing,” Williamson said after the match.

“There’s been a number of varying scores throughout this competition. I suppose weather has had a little bit to do with it but we’ve been on a variety of surfaces and it’s been nice that guys have adapted well,” he added.

While South Africa kept losing wickets at regular intervals and were ultimately restricted to what appeared to be a below-par score, Williamson was able to dig in, facing 138 balls. The captain, however, refused to rate his innings. “I don’t really rank innings, but each time you can try and go out and contribute to a winning performance is something that you’re always wanting to do, and it was nice I was able to achieve that,” he said.

Neither teams was able to score freely on a slow and not-easy-to-negotiate track, with de Grandhomme being the only exception. Heaping praise on de Grandhomme, Williamson said: “The partnership and the knock from Colin was outstanding in terms of swinging that momentum, and he hit the ball beautifully. Perhaps coming in fresh rather than trying to negotiate the surface prior might have been a positive thing.”

The next match at Old Trafford against the West Indies is likely to provide a very different challenge but Williamson believes his team has shown its ability to adapt to different conditions as they remain unbeaten.

“We also know that we’ve got a number of games left on different surfaces. We’ll be back here again at some point. We won’t know the difference that will hold for us, but we’ll also have Manchester, where we go next, and once again, I know that’s been playing well,” said the 28-year-old.

Williamson said they would have to keep on adapting during the tournament depending on opposition and surfaces.

“We know that coming into the back-end of the tournament, there will be some extremely tough games on different wickets again, and we’ll have to wait and see what they hold for us. We’ll just have to adapt and keep playing the sort of cricket that gives us the best opportunity to win cricket games, but day in, day out, that can vary a lot depending on opposition and surfaces,” said Williamson.

South Africa are still alive at the World Cup but with just one win from six matches it would take an extraordinary combination of results to see them into the semi-finals.

South Africa captain Faf du Plessis was left contemplating the ruins of another World Cup campaign. “Kane played a great knock, you know,” said du Plessis.

“It’s probably the difference between the two sides, just one guy taking it through. You need someone to go further, and we haven’t had that.”

Inevitably, given their painful World Cup history, the question of whether South Africa ‘choked’ on Wednesday is bound to be asked. ‘Choking’, however, implies squandering a winning position, whereas this match in Birmingham was more of a see-saw contest determined largely by Williamson’s knock.

South Africa did not help themselves on Wednesday when Williamson, who had then made 76, got a thin edge off Imran Tahir to wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock. The Proteas did not request a review, only for replays to show a nick. “I think I was at long on at the time, and Quinny is the closest to the action,” said du Plessis. “That’s not where the game was won and lost.”

“If you look at our batting unit, we’ve got some future talent and some promising players, but if you put our top six and you put the other top sixes around the world, purely on a numbers point of view, we won’t be in the top three,” admitted du Plessis.