Kane Williamson called New Zealand’s ‘greatest’ after reeling off record hundred against England

Kane Williamson is being hailed as New Zealand's greatest ever batsman after posting his 18th Test century. (AFP)
Updated 23 March 2018
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Kane Williamson called New Zealand’s ‘greatest’ after reeling off record hundred against England

AUCKLAND: Captain Kane Williamson scored a New Zealand-record 18th test century as New Zealand tightened its advantage in the first cricket Test against England on a rain-affected second day Friday.
Williamson previously shared with Martin Crowe and his current test teammate Ross Taylor the New Zealand record of 17 test centuries. Between heavy showers on Friday, Williamson added 11 runs to his overnight score of 91, reaching his century in 297 minutes, from 196 balls with 11 fours and a six.
He was finally out for 102, trapped lbw by James Anderson in the fourth over of the second new ball, but his 83-run partnership with Henry Nicholls placed New Zealand in control of its first-ever day-night test at home.
Nicholls was 49 not out, wicketkeeper B.J. Watling was 17 and New Zealand was 229-4 when heavy rain stopped play in the second session on a day in which only 23 overs were bowled and 54 runs scored. It was enough to allow New Zealand to build a lead of 171 runs and to take charge of a match in which further rain interruptions are likely.
Although the rain abated late in the evening, the umpires called off play at 9 p.m. — the time of scheduled stumps — because of a damp outfield.
Williamson demonstrated his immense talent and the great promise of his relatively young test career when he achieved his 18th century at 27 years of age and in his 64th test.
Crowe, who died of cancer in 2016 aged 53, played 77 tests and Taylor, aged 34, has played 84. Williamson was averaging 50.51 before this match and is now being hailed as New Zealand’s best-ever test batsman.
Former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming tweeted “Williamson’s century an emotional milestone for us Black Caps fans but one feels just a stepping stone for our greatest.”
England was dismissed for 58 in its first innings Thursday, its sixth-lowest score in tests and lowest against New Zealand. Trent Boult took a career-best 6-32 and Tim Southee took 4-25 as New Zealand bowled out England in 20.4 overs and only 95 minutes.
Williamson’s century was the only event of note on a day soured by rain. The first shower chased players from the field only 40 minutes after the start and Williamson had already achieved his milestone.
He went from 91 to 95 with a boundary, took two, then approached the historic mark with singles, reaching it with a trademark dab to third man off Anderson.
His innings hardened New Zealand’s hold on the match which already significant when it bowled out England so cheaply on the first day.
Williamson first put on 84 for the second wicket with Tom Latham (26) and after Taylor (20) was out, combined with Nicholls in a partnership which importantly survived the late and floodlit stages of the first day when the pink ball was expected to swing.
The England bowlers were less able than Boult and Southee to move the ball in the air and the pitch, which was well-grassed at the start, offered little movement from the seam.


Liverpool's unfashionable midfield the support act for Mohamed Salah

Updated 31 min 16 sec ago
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Liverpool's unfashionable midfield the support act for Mohamed Salah

  • Egyptian now has a remarkable 43 goals for the season
  • But he was backed up by a combative midfield trio of Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum

LIVERPOOL: When Liverpool was last making a charge at the Champions League title, its midfield had legitimate claims at being among the best in the world.
It was 2008 and Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano made up an engine room that had a bit of everything: Energy, vision, work rate, goals.
Fast forward a decade and Liverpool is back among Europe's elite with a rather more unfashionable and functional central midfield that is proving to be just as effective.
Mohamed Salah naturally hogged the headlines after scoring two goals and setting up two others in Liverpool's 5-2 win over Roma in the first leg of the semifinals on Tuesday. That made it 43 goals for the season for the Egypt winger, who has fast become the darling of Anfield and an icon back in his native country.
Yet Salah couldn't operate so effectively, and with such freedom, without the tireless and unselfish work of Liverpool's central-midfield three, which against Roma mainly comprised of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum.
That's the same Henderson who is often castigated and held up as a poster boy for the England national team's midfield woes in recent years. The same Milner who is now retired from England duty and has a parody Twitter account — "Boring James Milner" — named after him with 612,000 followers. The same Wijnaldum who was relegated from the Premier League with Newcastle two years ago.
This trio dominated the game against Roma, getting the better of Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman — arguably more illustrious counterparts — and laying the platform for Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane to run amok further forward.
"We didn't give any space away," Klopp said, with a nod to his midfield. "We controlled the game in a very nice football way."
That was often an accusation against Klopp, that his midfield couldn't control games because the team was too gung-ho in attack, leaving Liverpool's defense exposed.
This time last year, Philippe Coutinho was playing as a deep-lying central midfielder. The Brazil playmaker played lethal through-balls and scored some high-quality goals from long range, but didn't have the discipline and awareness of a natural center midfielder.
Coutinho's departure to Barcelona in January robbed Liverpool of one of world soccer's most creative minds but has invariably helped to shore up Klopp's midfield. The midfield now consists of three of Emre Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum, Milner and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain — all hard-working players who chip in with goals.
It's no surprise that Liverpool's defensive record has vastly improved as a result, especially with Virgil van Dijk a commanding presence at center back since joining for $99 million — a world-record fee for a defender — in January.
Milner, meanwhile, has emerged as something of a cult hero at Anfield — and an unlikely record-breaker in the Champions League.
When the 32-year-old Milner sent in a corner that was headed in by Firmino for Liverpool's fifth goal against Roma, he became the first player to have nine assists in a single Champions League campaign.
That sums him up, really, a player content to leave the glory to others. Milner was appreciated at Manchester City for his selflessness and versatility but he has blossomed further since his 2015 move to Liverpool, where he now is an out-and-out central midfielder after filling in at left back for most of last season.
Henderson is fully fit and is developing into a leader, albeit a more unassuming and less dynamic one than previous captain Gerrard. Wijnaldum has a knack of scoring big goals at Anfield and rarely lets Liverpool down, as shown against Roma when he replaced the injured Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 18th minute and slotted straight into his role.
With Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana potentially out for the rest of the season and Can also injured, Klopp is short of midfield cover outside of Henderson, Milner and Wijnaldum for Liverpool's final three Premier League games and, potentially, two more games in the Champions League.
Keeping Salah, Mane and Firmino fit has always been Klopp's priority this season. He'll be wrapping his three remaining senior midfielders in cotton for the final month now, too.