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Sean Williams conquers flu with the fastest Test ton by a Zimbabwean

Sean Williams
Zimbabwe batsman Sean Williams (C) embraces his teammate Regis Chakabva. (Photo by JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

New Zealand defeated Zimbabwe by an innings and 117 runs in the first of 2-Test series at Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Sunday. In reply to Zimbabwe’s 164, New Zealand piled up 576 runs for the loss of 6 wickets, riding on centuries from Tom Latham, Ross Taylor, and BJ Watling. The result was very much anticipated in New Zealand’s favor and it was just a matter of time before Zimbabwe shouldered arms but Sean Williams, struck by flu in his comeback Test, coughing and breathing heavily, was not ready to let go of a rare chance in the longer format.

Williams had played only two Tests before and was almost overlooked for the squad against the touring Kiwis but it was on captain Graeme Cremer’s insistence that he was included in the side at the last moment. Perhaps all he wanted after years of in-and-out of the Zimbabwean cricket team was to justify his talent but a severe flu and illness wouldn’t let him do so. Jacked up with antibiotic injections, Williams came on to bat in the first innings with the scoreline reading 35 for 3 but couldn’t last the hostile spell from Neil Wagner, who got the ball to fly off his helmet and get a controversial decision in his favor.

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Williams’ future was looking bleak for he had blown, rather unfortunately, one of the only two chances he got courtesy of his captain. His condition got worse and he was unable to take the field the next day. He had to stay in bed in order to avoid contact with teammates and keep them safe. Any other player would certainly have given up by then but Williams had decided something else.

He could not bat until five Zimbabwe wickets fell but with the score reading 17 for 4, Williams was summoned to the dressing room. However, when the fifth wicket fell, captain Graeme Cremer stood up for his troops to see off the day and saved Williams from a hard time. But with time, his condition got only worse, his wife also went down with flu but Williams found his inspiration when he saw his family rallying behind him at the Queens Sports Club.

Stats and records – Zimbabwe v New Zealand 1st Test – Statistical Highlights

Down and out with health concerns, Sean Williams responded with the fastest Test century by a Zimbabwean batsman. He was lucky in the sense that he got beaten a few times, edged a few but was in control most of the time in his 148-ball 119. Williams entertained from the get-go and never looked back after his first boundary off the fourth ball he faced. He was exquisite with his drives, particularly on the off side where he racked up two third of his runs. The New Zealand bowlers kept throwing everything they had on him but he wasn’t backing away from the fight.

Like a true champion, Williams conquered his demons and put up a fantastic show to exemplify the kind of fighting spirit Zimbabwe Cricket needs to instill. He drove, punched and swept his way through to the Test hundred, one ball better than Neil Johnson (the previous best for Zimbabwe).

For the period when he was batting with Cremer, there was belief that New Zealand could be made to bat again. He pierced the gaps profoundly and was particularly harsh against leg-spinner Ish Sodhi. Williams used his feet and wrists beautifully and maximized his scoring potential by opening up all of the scoring areas.

He gave Zimbabwe the belief that they could make the Kiwis bat again, he gave them the belief that they were better than what they thought of themselves, that they could level with the world’s best Test teams and take them down eventually just like the old days. Williams paved the way for what can be expected to be a much more closely fought contest at the same venue in 6 days time. Let us hope Zimbabwe have learned the lesson and the only way they will be moving now on is forward.

Also read – Indian origin batsman in Singapore hits record 244 runs in domestic match

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