Batting coach lauds captain's century as Black Caps 198 ahead on Day 4 after Pakistan spinner takes 200th Test wicket
Kane Williamson knock 'special' as New Zealand keep Abu Dhabi Test and series alive
Craig McMillan called Kane Williamson's century on Thursday "special" as New Zealand held off near-certain defeat to Pakistan in the third and final Test at Abu Dhabi.
Captain Williamson remained unbeaten on 139 at stumps as the tourists ended Day 4 on 272-4 at Zayed Cricket Stadium. He was involved in an unbroken 212-run partnership for the fifth wicket with fellow middle-order batsman Henry Nicholls (90 not out), as they took 198-run lead over the 'home team'.
The series is level at 1-1, with any of the four results - a Pakistan win, a New Zealand win, a draw or even a tie - possible on Friday. But it could have been much worse for the Black Caps, who were struggling on 60-4 at one stage - with still 14 runs required to make Pakistan bat again.
Much of the credit for Pakistan's performance over the past four days goes to Yasir Shah, who on Thursday became the fastest to 200 Test wickets. He reached the landmark in only his 33rd match, breaking an 82-year-old record held by another leg-spinner - Australia's Clarrie Grimmett.
But Yasir's personal achievement was overshadowed by Williamson's century, and batting coach McMillan paid rich tribute to the team leader.
“Kane makes batting look ridiculously easier at times, such is the class of the man,” said McMillan, himself a successful middle-order batsman for New Zealand.
“Guys who have been out there will realise how difficult it is bat out there when you look at Pakistan bowling being very disciplined in their approach today.
“There was some turn there for Yasir Shah and [Pakistan off-spinner] Bilal [Asif] as well. But our guys stuck to their task pretty well today. In terms of getting ourselves out of trouble after losing the first two wickets, it was fantastic day.”
Williamson, 28, batted for more than six-and-a-half hours after arriving at the fall of the first wicket of Jeet Raval (0) more than half an hour before close of play on Wednesday.
“It’s his 19th Test century and he’s going to number more in time,” McMillan said. “It was a special innings and hopefully can propel us to a Test victory tomorrow, so it might make it more special.”
Nicholls, 27, provided excellent support to his captain and McMillan said the left-hander showed wisdom beyond his years.
“He’s a new guy still finding his way in Test cricket, but the maturity and calmness he showed along with Kane I think in their partnership throughout the day was great for the team,” the former batting all-rounder said.
McMillan, a veteran of 55 Tests, said New Zealand will be "coming out with a plan" on how to win what would be a memorable series.
"I think it’s fantastic for Test cricket that we are going to Day 5 with a result still on the table," he said. “I’m sure Pakistan will be greatly motivated because it’s Mohammed Hafeez’s last Test match, and he has served them for a number of years.”
McMillan also lauded Yasir for his landmark.
“It’s an amazing achievement,” he said. “He’s had a terrific series and he’s one of the best, if not the best, leg-spinner in world cricket. What a challenge it has been for us throughout this series.”
On his part, Yasir said Pakistan's objective would be to get New Zealand out early and press for a win.
“The wicket is slow but it is turning from the patches and also from outside the crease,” the 32 year old said. “They were getting beaten but yes, we have done a bit of loose bowling.
"We want to bowl them and try to go for the chase. That is what we are going to try as there is still one full day left in the match.”