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Taylor & Williamson: The heart of New Zealand

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Ross_Taylor_Kane_Williamson_New_Zealand_CricketIn many of the past Cricket World Cups, New Zealand tended to punch above their weight. They were the perennial semi-finalists, with six top-four finishes in the first 10 editions. Finally, in 2015, the 11th edition, they reached the final thanks to the support from very passionate home fans and some skilled players. Although they could not get the ultimate prize, they did prove that they are not to be taken lightly in these multi-nation tournaments.

In fact, the team have grown in stature over the last four years and now present themselves as a very handy all-round limited over outfit. They have power-hitters for the powerplay and the slog overs; they have players who can anchor the middle overs; and they have a good bowling attack with various options for both pace and spin bowling. Since the 2015 Cricket World Cup, they have won 43 out of 76 matches with a win-loss ratio of 1.433. Only England, India and South Africa have managed to maintain a better W/L ratio in this period. It shows that the Black Caps are genuine candidates for (at least) another top-four spot in the ongoing Cricket World Cup in England.

The 15-member squad of New Zealand does include key players like Martin Guptill, Trent Boult, and Tim Southee, but a lot will depend on Captain Kane Williamson and the most experienced member of the squad, Ross Taylor.

Williamson is one of New Zealand’s greatest players ever and by the time he retires, most of the New Zealand batting records, across all formats, should belong to him. (He is also part of the modern ‘Fab Four’ with Virat Kohli, Joe Root, and Steve Smith.) In his 10-year-long ODI career, Williamson has accumulated 5,545 runs with 11 hundred and 37 fifties. Many of these are match-winning performances, including the unbeaten 45 against Australia in the group stage of the last World Cup. That match was a low-scoring thriller which the Kiwis won by just one wicket when Williamson hit a six over long on.

In this World Cup, Williamson will lead the team and come in to bat at one down, after the fall of one of the openers. The role he will play is that of an anchor and he is expected to bat long keeping the scoreboard moving, while others would be expected to bat more freely and score runs as their skipper will be there to hold one end up.

Since the last World Cup, Williamson has scored five of his 11 centuries and his average of 47.01 in this period is higher than his overall overage of 45.90. He has recovered from the muscle injury he suffered during the Bangladesh series and is match fit for the big tournament.

Ross Taylor has been part of the New Zealand set up for the last 13 years and has already played in three World Cups. He is the current leading run scorer for New Zealand in ODIs with 8,026 runs. He is the other mainstay for in New Zealand middle order along with Williamson. Especially in recent years, Taylor has been going through a purple patch with some brilliant knocks. His batting average for the last two years is 75.28 and he has scored three centuries during this period, including a career-best 181* against England in Dunedin.

Williamson has a much better record in England than Taylor. In 14 matches, Williamson has scored 815 runs with two hundreds and an average nearing 63. Taylor is not far behind, with 783 runs from 19 matches at an average of 46 and he also has two centuries. Their past record clearly indicates that the duo should have a fairly successful World Cup.

Taylor has gone through various ups and downs in his career, including a not-so-successful captaincy stint for his country. At this stage of his career, Taylor will play the role of a shot maker to Williamson’s anchor. The kind of batting-friendly pitches expected for most of the World Cup will mean that the teams are expected to post 300 plus totals regularly. Taylor’s ability to clear the ground will be useful for both setting up the target as well as completing the chase. Moreover, as the senior-most player in the squad, Taylor will be part of the core group of players for the Kiwis and provide his support to Williamson regarding strategy on the field and in the dressing room.

The pair bat well together. Theirs is the only pair to have two entries in the top-10 highest New Zealand partnerships in ODIs. Their 206-run partnership in June 2015 is still the highest ever third wicket partnership for New Zealand. Till now, Kane and Ross have batted together 61 times, adding 3,275 runs at an average of 56.46. They have made twelve 100-plus partnerships and 13 partnerships between 50 and 100.

Success for New Zealand in this World Cup will depend on both Williamson and Taylor. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see a few big partnerships between these two key players enhancing their hope to lift the coveted trophy.



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