Williamson expected to return before South Africa tests

Gary Stead, the head coach of New Zealand, is optimistic that Kane Williamson will be ready for the first Test of the series against South Africa at Mount Maunganui. Due to a mild hamstring issue, the great batsman was removed from the T20I series against Pakistan halfway through.

The former Test captain tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the first IPL 2023 match, and since then, he has struggled with injuries for the past ten months. To manage Williamson’s workload, the management of the New Zealand team has chosen to pick him for tasks more cautiously.

Stead estimated that the 33-year-old will be back in the gym in a few days. “I’m sure he’ll be fine,” the head coach of the Black Caps stated. “It was a small ache, which is fortunate, and he probably has one or two more days before he resumes training. Therefore, we didn’t want to irritate it more and didn’t see the need to do so with the significant upcoming series. We want to make sure we’ve given him every opportunity to be available because we recognize his importance as a crucial player.”

Given that South Africa would be fielding a Test team full of rookies for the series, there may have been an incentive to grant Williamson a more lenient recuperation schedule. But given that New Zealand had never defeated South Africa in a Test series, Stead was not about to take the Protea challenge lightly.

“I can assure you one thing with South Africa – the team they bring here will still have experience and they will be hardened guys who have played quite a bit of first-class cricket,” Stead stated. “They’ll also have a point to make—’ Hey, we should be here,’ they would argue—and I believe it makes them just as dangerous as having a complete side in this. We won’t be taking them lightly, for sure. We aim to defeat them in a Test series, something we have never done before.”

Trent Boult, another veteran member of the New Zealand setup, has also only sometimes played for the senior side, primarily in ICC events. Boult is currently a free agent after choosing not to sign the board’s central contract. Given his lack of first-class and red-ball experience, the left-arm seamer is unlikely to make a comeback to the Test setup anytime soon, but he may be in for a return for the Twenty20 Internationals against Australia, which begin on February 21, to maybe make the T20 World Cup squad later in the year.

Last night I was texting him. This week, Trent and I are going to talk about the future—what that means for him, and where it fits in for both of us. We will connect this week and work out, but they are still on the agenda. “I’m not sure, but he might be available,” Stead remarked.

In case Boult doesn’t return at all, New Zealand has been readying itself. Both the returning Lockie Ferguson and Ben Sears made an impression with their pace in the series against Pakistan.

“I think the bowling group has been excellent throughout,” Stead stated. “If you go back to the beginning of the series, we had Sears in, which gave him a little more visibility on a global scale, and after that, he and Lockie took turns. They both bowled well, in my opinion, and right through Southee. Milne and Henry also had good stints, and Mitch [Mitchell Santner] and Ish [Sodhi] provided solid support. As a result, I believe the bowling has been excellent; precise, and difficult. Pakistan is under a great deal of pressure from them.

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