PERTH: New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson and Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc joined elite company as bat continued to dominate ball on the third day of the second Test against Australia at the WACA Ground yesterday. In reply to Australia’s formidable 559 for nine declared on a placid wicket, the Kiwis were 510 for six at stumps, trailing by just 49 runs. Ross Taylor emerged from a form slump and scored his second Test double century to be a careerbest 235 not out, with Mark Craig on seven. Williamson became one of the four youngest players to reach 12 Test centuries when he made 166, while Starc bowled what is believed to be the fastest recorded delivery in Test cricket. Williamson rarely looked troubled in posting his second century in as many matches, before mistiming a pull shot off Josh Hazlewood and was caught at mid-on by Mitchell Johnson to end a record 265-run stand with Taylor, a new benchmark for New Zealand in Tests against Australia. He faced 250 balls in 390 minutes and hit 24 boundaries. The 25-year-old made 140 and 59 in the first Test at the Gabba, which New Zealand lost by 208 runs, and continued that form in Perth. It was his 12th Test century and only three other players have scored as many centuries at the same age which include Sachin Tendulkar (16), Don Bradman (13) and Alastair Cook (12).
However, Williamson played down the comparisons. “I don’t think I’m in that company,” he said. “It is just nice to be scoring runs, helping the team out, trying to move the team forward and trying to get results, that’s what it’s about.” Williamson has made centuries in five of his last seven Tests against Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England and Australia. Taylor was a little less sure at the crease and flirted with disaster on a couple of occasions, but recovered to post his 13th Test hundred and looked increasingly comfortable during his innings. It was a welcome performance for the classy Taylor, who has been struggling with form for some time and had not scored a Test century since November last year.
In a game where records have been tumbling with incredible regularity, Taylor posted a new benchmark for visiting players at the WACA and also became the first New Zealander to score a Test double century against Australia. Starc raised the home crowd from its run-fuelled stupor when he sent down a 160.4 kilometres per hour (99.7 miles per hour) thunderbolt to Taylor before tea. It was part of a fiery spell from the left armer and was the fourth-fastest delivery ever recorded, with Pakistan’s Shoaib Akhtar holding the record with 161.3 kph. Australian duo Brett Lee and Shaun Tait both once clocked at 161.1 kph, and 1970s firebrand Jeff Thomson is the only other player recorded at over 160 kph.
However, none of that group performed the feat in Test cricket. While he didn’t want to be drawn on the accuracy of the speed reading on that particular delivery, Starc did believe it was one of his fastest spells. “It was nice to have rhythm and have the ball coming out nicely,” he said. ‘It felt really good’ Fellow paceman Mitchell Johnson moved into fourth on the all-time list of Australian Test wicket-takers when he removed Doug Bracewell late in the day to claim his 311th scalp, passing Brett Lee. Australia did not help their own cause with some dropped catches, while there was embarrassment for local officials early in the day, with play halted for 17 minutes by a malfunctioning sightscreen. — AFP