Kane Williamson’s 130 at Dunedin, described by ESPNCricinfo’s Andrew McGlashan as “a wonderful display of batsmanship,” was in equal parts cricketing brilliance and statistical note.
For starters, it was a relatively rare sight: only the 17th Test century by a New Zealander against South Africa; versus at least 20 against every other nation (except Bangladesh).
It was the fourth by a New Zealand Test captain against the South Africans; it contributed to a rare non-loss (it’s worth remembering that the BLACKCAPS still only have four Test victories against their Protea opposition); and it took Williamson to second-equal among Kiwi century-makers.
But how well does it stack up? Compared to other centuries, and other great knocks against the South Africans, does Williamson still rate so high?
First and foremost, who has made more? As well as one of 17 hundreds, Williamson’s is the ninth largest. It’s dwarfed by Stephen Fleming’s 262, but otherwise it shapes up pretty well.
Those not listed: Jacob Oram 119*, Paul Barton 109, Dean Brownlie 109, Geoff Rabone 107, Kane Williamson 102*, Zin Harris 101 and Giff Vivian 100. John Beck and Stephen Fleming have both made 99.
What about as a percentage of the team score? Sure, Styris’ 170 and Cairns’ 158 look impressive – and they resulted in victory – but were made alongside each other in a score of a shy under 600; compare that to John R Reid, who made 142 out of just 249.
When it comes to that metric, Williamson’s stock sinks slightly.
Some of these knocks bring back mixed feelings for New Zealanders: Dean Brownlie made his runs with both his place, and the team’s credibility, very much on the line. New Zealand still lost by an innings, but at least Brownlie proved that they weren’t just 45 all-out.
Paul Barton, meanwhile, was the only man to go it alone and still end up on the winning side; made all the more impressive by the fact it helped secure a historic two-all series result.
But as can be seen, a couple of these – Fleming’s monster 262, and Williamson’s own not-out 102 at the Basin Reserve a few years ago, came in innings that weren’t completed; either through declaration, or the drawing of stumps.
Removing the narrow focus on centuries, there have been five New Zealanders to make knocks against South Africa that passed more than half the completed team total. Reid’s superlative 142, which at 57% puts him in the top 50 for any batsman of all time (yet is still only his second best effort), tops this list comfortably.
Some of these knocks were made under severe duress: BJ Watling’s twin-63s in the second Test of the horror 2012-13 tour were two of his finest knocks, while Dad Weir was fighting a tough cause in a big innings loss in the very first New Zealand-South Africa series.
Perhaps the most interesting point is how few of New Zealand’s big names appear: partially, this is because of the likes of Glenn Turner, John Wright and Jeremy Coney playing during South Africa’s isolation era; but it’s also interesting that Martin Crowe averaged 20.5 in his four Tests against them, Bert Sutcliffe never passed that 80*, and neither Ross Taylor nor Nathan Astle – nor Brendon McCullum, Craig McMillan, or even the usual rear-guard saviour Daniel Vettori managed to really do well against the Proteas.
There was one other way to look at Williamson’s hundred, though – and that was the lack of big scores made by anyone else. The team total chugged along because of plenty of handy 10-to-15s, boosted by Neil Wagner’s heroics, but with no other big contributions – Jeet Raval was second-top scorer with 52.
So how does this rank?
|G Rabone||107||32 (M Poore)||Lost||1953-54|
|K Williamson||102*||39 (K van Wyk)||Drawn||2011-12|
|M Sinclair||150||39 (C McMillan||Lost||2000-01|
|P Barton||109||46 (A Dick)||Won||1961-62|
|JR Reid||142||46 (P Harris)||Lost||1961-62|
|D Brownlie||109||51 (B McCullum)||lost||2012-13|
|K Williamson||130||52 (J Raval)||Drawn||2016-17|
|B Sinclair||138||62 (N McGregor)||Drawn||1963-64|
|H Vivian||100||64 (S Dempster)||Lost||1931-32|
|P Harris||101||69 (M Chapple)||Won||1961-62|
Geoff Rabone’s stoic 107 during the 1953-54 series looks even more impressive in this context (and goes to show just how undervalued his contribution has been by history), while Mathew Sinclair’s 150 looms even larger given the huge discrepancy between that and Craig McMillan’s 39.
Williamson’s first South African ton again gives a good account of itself: it was the moment that probably birthed his star as an international batsman, and looks no less impressive now – especially when you consider the bowling attack was Steyn, Philander, Morkel and de Lange.
But stats aren’t everything, so let us know in the comments which your favourite New Zealand vs South Africa century was – and how high Kane Williamson rates.