Kane Williamson’s bowling is little more than a partnership breaker at test-match level, but in the hustle and bustle of Twenty20 cricket his off-spinners are a valuable commodity.
The 21-year-old spent time fine-tuning his craft with the ball with English county side Gloucestershire during the winter and opened the bowling for Northern Districts during the HRV Cup this summer.
On Saturday, Williamson was named in the New Zealand one-day and Twenty20 outfits to meet Zimbabwe in three ODIs and two T20s during the next two weeks and while his batting might not have commanded selection, his ability with the ball has seen his stock rise.
The right-armer was the most economical bowler in the HRV Cup of players who got through more than five overs and he bowled one of only six maidens in the competition.
While he only leaked 5.74 runs per over, he also picked up seven wickets at an average of 22.40.
Williamson only averages 15.75 with the bat at a strike rate of 99.32 from 36 Twenty20 matches, but said his bowling had clearly helped his selection in the national side.
“I think just pretty much that all-round option in that shorter form and hopefully a batting role through the middle,” he said of what he could bring to the mix.
“You always want to bat as high as you can in Twenty20 stuff. But there’s obviously some really good players in the team that have cemented their spots. So hopefully doing a job in the middle would be nice.”
Williamson’s only international Twenty20 appearance was against Zimbabwe last October, where he wasn’t required with the willow.
During the summer he made 93 runs from five innings for Northern Districts at an average of 18.60, with a top score of 53.
But, if anyone was in doubt over the young gun’s ability to score quickly they only need to look to his last appearance in a one-day international where he smoked a 69-ball century against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in October.
In that game though, Williamson’s innings was overshadowed by the home side as Malcolm Waller guided them to an upset one-wicket win with an unbeaten 99 from 74 balls as they chased down New Zealand’s total of 328-5.
Williamson said that last-over loss served as a reminder that Zimbabwe could pose a challenge.
“They certainly have a small group who potentially can perform really well. I think it’s important we certainly bring our A-game every game against them because we saw, Brendan Taylor and players like that – Waller in the last series – play really well.”
In the three one-dayers the sides contested in Zimbabwe in October, Taylor produced scores of 128 not out, 107 not out and 75 as he become the first player from the African nation to make consecutive international centuries in 50-over cricket.
Much has been said about Zimbabwe’s inability to compete following their innings and 301-run loss in the one-off test in Napier at the weekend, but Williamson they were an ideal warm-up opponent before the Kiwis meet South Africa next month.
“I think [we should be] looking to keep improving. I know we’ve been playing some good cricket, especially in the test format, but it’s important we keep improving because the South African side is going to be strong.”