Unique duo powers New Zealand

Rookie Williamson and veteran Martin jolt India with superb efforts

The job is not done, yet, but the Kiwis will settle in the interim for the knowledge that there is some fire left in the old dog yet, and that the new kid on the block has the trappings of a performing superstar.

Chris Martin, 35, is most certainly on the last legs of an international career that has been topsy-turvy, performance not always matching potential. Equally, Kane Williamson, 20, is only at the nascent stages of what must be a career destined for great heights.

The veteran and the tyro played their parts in the commanding position the Kiwis find themselves in – at 82 for six going into the final day, India’s overall lead is a measly 110 – the former’s ninth five-wicket building beautifully on the latter’s brilliantly crafted century on debut.

It was hard, watching Martin run through the Indian top-order, not to reflect on the happenings at this same venue 14 years back, when a young Indian announced himself on the world stage with a skilful half-century on debut, and an established paceman ripped the heart out of South Africa, whose chase of 170 for victory was rudely halted at 105.

In November 1996, VVS Laxman made a superlative 51 in India’s second innings on an extremely dicey surface, accounting for more than a quarter of India’s tally of 190 and giving the bowlers 170 to defend. It was expected that for India to conjure an unlikely victory, spin triplets Anil Kumble, Sunil Joshi and Narendra Hirwani had to get the job done.

Instead, Javagal Srinath stepped up to the plate, taking six for 21 to send South Africa, with Gary Kirsten opening, tumbling to defeat. Laxman now stands as India’s last hope, but Will-iamson looms as New Zealand’s brightest hope since his current skipper, Daniel Vettori, made his debut in February 1997.

Captain at the Under-19 World Cup in 2008, a first-class player when still at school and earmarked for the national captaincy, Will-iamson’s is a charted rise based on immense talent and a maturity beyond his years.

Martin took several summers to find his feet. It required the loss of his New Zealand central contract for him to rid his booze- and cigarette-filled days. Today, Martin is pursuing a degree in politics because it is the ‘modern’ thing to do! “I grew up when I was 25-26,” Martin said the other day. “The opportunities to party became less and less. When they did come about, I made sure it wasn’t before games or during tours.”

That awareness came in handy on Sunday as he tore the heart out of the Indian batting, stepping in for the kill at the first hint of uncertainty and hesitancy. It was done softly, not through raw pace but clever variations in swing. Williamson surely has a future in cricket, but come to think of it, Martin might yet have a future in politics – after all, sleight of hand is his virtue!

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