Kane Williamson's less-than-perfect comeback.

Kane Williamson’s return to the cricket field was far from ideal. He faced a barrage of challenges – being hit on the pads, beaten on the outside edge, dropped at mid-wicket, nearly run out twice, and even had to retire hurt. To add to the adversity, he could only manage a single run from his first 16 balls, proving no match for Daryl Mitchell’s fitness and form in the middle. However, as the night unfolded, Williamson showcased his enduring value to New Zealand.

Williamson’s right knee, recently healed from a ruptured ligament, and his left elbow, accustomed to sore tendons, seemed perfectly synchronized. He skillfully left deliveries outside off, expertly ducked under bouncers, confidently took on Shakib Al Hasan, and adeptly maneuvered his crease to access the off-side. By the end of the night, he also had a “fat and colorful” left thumb to display as a battle scar.

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The pitch, though adjacent to the previous Chennai pitch, offered a significantly different challenge. It was a firmer, hard-rolled playing surface, described by Williamson as a “really good competitive wicket.” Notably, it featured more bounce than Hyderabad, surprising both teams.

Under the floodlights, the ball began to swing, reminiscent of India’s early struggle against taller and faster pacers. The conditions appeared favorable for Bangladesh, evident from their delayed introduction of spin, which is unusual for Chennai. In this scenario, Williamson’s ability to leave deliveries outside off-stump became crucial. Facing Mustafizur Rahman and Shoriful Islam’s accurate line and length, the risk of outside edges was high.

Williamson’s tactics included confidently dancing down the track to Shakib. Although he initially struggled and almost yorked himself, he persisted with this approach, capitalizing on the shorter legside boundary. It was a calculated move to break free after facing pace for 14 overs.

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Williamson’s ability to shuffle back and across in his crease proved effective against both Mehidy Hasan’s offbreaks and Shakib’s arm-balls, providing access to the off-side when the legside was densely packed.

While Williamson’s innings might seem ordinary when analyzed in isolation, it was far from it. He was making a comeback after a six-month injury layoff, facing challenging early bowling conditions, and battling against a team that had excelled in handling contingencies throughout the tournament. Williamson’s performance defied expectations and contributed significantly to New Zealand’s success.

Kane Williamson’s innings wasn’t flawless, but that’s precisely what made it extraordinary. It showcased his resilience and determination, reminding us of his enduring value to the New Zealand cricket team.



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