(Photo: Getty Images)
By Richard Edwards
GLENN Turner has concerns over the form of Kane Williamson in the run-up to a Test series that is shaping up to be a battle of the skippers in New Zealand next month.
Turner, who is universally regarded as one of the Kiwi’s finest ever batsmen alongside the likes of Martin Crowe and Williamson himself, turned 70 last year and remains one of the most respected voices in New Zealand sport.
And he believes that Williamson’s form in short-format cricket has provided some cause for concern, with the stylish right-hander having registered three single digit scores in his last three innings in Twenty20 cricket. He has only scored more than 30 three times in his past ten knocks.
Turner concedes that this offers no real indication of what might follow in the five-day format, but with Root looking in pristine nick in the recent one-day series against Australia, the former Worcestershire star concedes that England’s captain might already have the whip hand.
“In the Tests, I think both sides have players who are still trying to establish themselves and that’s obviously going to put an onus on the two captains,” he tells The Cricket Paper. “I’m not sure where Williamson sits in terms of form. He scored that hundred (against Pakistan at Wellington in January) but it took him 125 balls and he wasn’t that convincing throughout.
“We know he’s a good player but he would need to hit his straps again in the Test series. New Zealand are very reliant on him and (Ross) Taylor. The middle-order, for me, is quite brittle.
“I think it’s still relatively early days for Kane because of his age as much as anything.
“He’s certainly a talent and he has got a good head on his shoulders. There’s every chance that he’ll be seen in a good light at the end of the day but I don’t like to compare different eras.
“There are so many differences there, compared to the timing and who you’re playing against and in what conditions.
“I would sooner talk about decades rather than over a much longer period. I go back to Bert Sutcliff but if I mention his name to people today they wouldn’t know who I was talking about. Certainly, Taylor has proved day-in, day-out that he’s a very good player but Williamson still has a way to go.
“That said, the stats to date speak for themselves.”
They certainly do, with Williamson, 27, currently averaging over 50 in Test cricket, having notched 17 hundreds in just 63 matches.
Turner hit seven in his Test career, while Williamson is now level-pegging with Crowe’s tally.
The concern for New Zealand is that – like England in many ways – the rest of their batting is relatively flimsy.
Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner and Colin de Grandhomme are all largely unproven at the highest level and will be targeted by an England bowling attack desperate to make up for their Ashes disappointment as quickly as possible.
Turner believes England’s bowling options may also prove the difference between the two sides.
“I watched quite a bit of the Ashes and saw how England struggled to take wickets on those pitches,” he says.
“There won’t be too much in the way of help in either Auckland or Christchurch, with Christchurch a featherbed wicket and Auckland a drop-in pitch.
“But New Zealand are heavily reliant on Trent Boult and Tim Southee.
“If one of those gets injured then I think we’ll struggle. England obviously have Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson and, I think, with Chris Woakes as the third seamer, England’s options are superior to New Zealand’s.”
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