New Zealand captain and batting mainstay Kane Williamson confirmed Thursday he will play in the second Test against the West Indies in Wellington despite the imminent arrival of his first child. Williamson had the Black Caps sweating on his availability for the start of the match Friday after leaving the squad to take a 500-kilometre trip home to Tauranga to be with his wife. He had previously said the baby was due “mid-to-late December”. Cricket does not allow for substitutions if he had to leave during the Test. New Zealand coach Gary Stead said Williamson, who had been given until the end of the day to make a decision, had confirmed mid-afternoon he was “confident” of taking his place in the side.
Williamson, ranked the second-best batsman in the world behind Australian Steve Smith and equal with India’s Virat Kohli, provided the backbone of New Zealand’s comprehensive innings victory in the first Test with an epic career-best 251.
Stead said there had been no pressure on Williamson to play as New Zealand look to extend their 14-Test home unbeaten streak.
“We want to support Kane and Sarah in the decision they come to, and whatever way he chooses to go we will support him in that,” Stead said shortly before Williamson confirmed he would play.
“They’re the two sitting there with the decision in front of them.”
Stead said the only issue still to be resolved was whether to replace all-rounder Daryl Mitchell with spinner Mitchell Santner in an otherwise unchanged side.
The West Indies named Joshua da Silva to make his debut, replacing injured wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich, but delayed confirming the rest of their line-up until seeing the pitch in the morning.
There will be at least one more change with pace bowler Kemar Roach having returned home following the death of his father.
Strong wind gusts up to 120 kilometres per hour (75mph) are forecast for the opening day which would make life difficult for bowlers who, on the plus side, could expect another typical New Zealand green wicket.
“You’ve just got to keep your head down a little longer and try to push through the wind,” said West Indies captain Jason Holder, who described the wicket as having “just as much grass if not more” than the emerald Hamilton surface.
Holder said it was important for his side to make amends for their poor showing in Hamilton.
“We let ourselves down in the first Test match but we have to keep going,” he said, but he did not believe the performance was as bad as the result made it seem.
“You look at the ability and what this team can produce, it’s there. We’ve done it before.”
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