Black Caps batsman Jeet Raval admits he felt “a bit of a clown” as he shared the limelight with New Zealand’s own ringmaster in Hamilton.
The 28-year-old opener watched on from the other end as Kane Williamson brought up a record-equalling 17th Test ton in the first innings of their Test decider against South Africa, belting an unbeaten 148 by stumps.
Entering the fray at 1-83, Williamson proceeded to notch a 190-run partnership with the slow-burning Raval until the latter’s departure for 88.
It was a real captain’s knock from the 26-year-old, belting 14 boundaries and three sixes as he dispatched Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada to mid-wicket, cover and gully in his side’s 4-321.
The three figures, earned from 150 balls, equalled the legendary Martin Crowe’s 22-year record of 17 Test centuries.
The injured Ross Taylor sits one back with 16 Test triple-figures.
In a day full of pioneering with the bat in Hamilton, Williamson also managed to pass 5000 Test runs – just the sixth Kiwi to do so.
“You feel like a bit of a clown batting with the master at the other end but it was amazing, Kane’s one of our best players,” Raval said.
“The way he goes about business, so calm and just knows his game really well, and senses each situation so well.
“When someone’s bowling a really good spell, he soaks the pressure up and knows to reapply the pressure when they’re a little tired.”
Yet Williamson’s role extends beyond the willow, as Raval can testify.
As he pushed through his 80s, Raval was frequently peppered with morsels of advice on how to keep a cool head.
It didn’t work for Raval on this occasion – but for the Gujarat-born leftie, it was the 190-run stand with Williamson that gave him the most satisfaction.
“You go through those periods where you’re doubting yourself, second guessing yourself, and Kane just came down and said stick to your game plan, stick to your line, your routines, and that calms you down,” Raval said.
“I was lucky enough to be batting at the other end and got to pick his brain.”
For Morkel, who brought up his 250th Test wicket on Monday, Williamson’s innings soured what would’ve been a momentous day in his career.
With a deficit and wickets still to claim, the paceman acknowledged his side would be under pressure heading into day four on Tuesday.
First order of the day at Seddon Park would be claiming Williamson’s scalp.
“He just plays length really well – anything with a bit of width, he’ll cut it and play square, and then obviously if you want to go a touch fuller, especially on this sort of surface, it’s quite easy,” the 32-year-old Morkel said.
“The margins are very small to him.
“Kane is the sort of guy that can bat time, and that’s the sort of thing bowlers don’t like.”