There is no better way to celebrate the festive season than with success and the New Zealand cricket team, or the Blackcaps as they are more commonly known, have gifted themselves just that.
In their final Test series of the year, the Blackcaps have managed a clean sweep Test series victory over Sri Lanka, clenching the final Test (and ultimately the 2-0 win) in just under an hour on the fourth day.
After winning the toss, an achievement in itself for Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum, the visitors were sent in to bat on a pitch so green it was compared to a Wimbledon court on more than one occasion. However, conditions proved to be more batting friendly than initially expected with Sri Lanka cruising to 264/7 at the close of play on Day 1, eventually being bowled out on Day 2 for 292.
New Zealand had a far harder time when they eventually made their way into the middle for their first innings and found themselves all out still 55 runs short and back in the field attempting damage control on Sri Lanka’s lead.
It was Sri Lanka’s second innings that created the most buzz but also pretty much sealed the fate of the visitors. After a terrific start saw them at 71-0 and increasing their lead with every run, the visitors suffered a batting collapse of mammoth proportions and fell to a miserable 133 all out thanks to some short-pitch bowling and exceptional fielding, setting the Kiwis just 189 to win. It was Man-of-the-Match Kane Williamson’s terrific century that helped guide his team to victory and in what can only be described as the perfect situation; he was there until the very end.
The young Sri Lankan side will have many questions to answer and the gaps left by departing greats, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, seemed more evident than ever. Thankfully, there are some positives to be taken from the series, mainly for paceman Dushmantha Chameera. He was able to snag 4-68 to add to his 5-47, his maiden five-fer in Test cricket, in the first innings and provide Sri Lanka with some positives to take with them moving forward.
The real hero of the day, however, is Kane Williamson. The definition of a “natural born talent”, this number three batsman has gained a reputation in the cricketing world for his cool composure and incredible gift for steadying the Blackcaps innings should it be in trouble, gaining himself a twitter nickname in all its glory: #SteadyTheShip.
His quiet confidence and humble nature have allowed for him to shine out on the field, gaining himself the top spot in the ICC Test rankings after his latest century in the second Test of the Sri Lanka home tour, the first time a Kiwi has ever achieved this feat. Along with his ranking, he also now holds the top spot for the most runs scored in one calendar year by a New Zealand player: a staggering 1172 runs.
But what Williamson has done for his team has benefited more than the men he shares a dressing room with. He is leading the rise of the new generation of young stars that are rekindling the game in its purest form. Many have been quick to compare Williamson to England’s number three, Joe Root, however the Brit in comparison has yet to reach the same level of his Kiwi counterpart although he is not far behind him.
With this latest win under their belt, New Zealand have now gone 13 consecutive home Tests without a defeat and although they now start with the ODI series on Christmas day at Hagley Oval, they will look to continue this fine form they find themselves in.