Playing only as a specialist batter, Williamson walked in at No. 3 after New Zealand lost Devon Conway for a duck and stabilised their chase of 346 with a 49-ball half-century. He extended his tally to 54 off 50 balls before retiring out with New Zealand at 141 for 1 after 18 overs.
Williamson was fairly cautious in the early exchanges, letting Hasan Ali’s outswingers go outside off. He even looked in some discomfort and hobbled between the wickets while sneaking in a leg-bye. But then he lined up tearaway Haris Rauf for a triptych of fours in the seventh over. Despite Pakistan packing the off side, Williamson used his wrists to find the gaps with precision. This prompted Pakistan’s bowlers to shift their lines straighter, but Williamson was ready to pick them away through the leg side.
“Just great to get through some batting out in the middle and be part of a match, which was really nice and it [knee] held up pretty well,” Williamson said after New Zealand sealed victory. “[It needed] a little bit of icing afterwards but it’s all part of the process. Yeah, it wasn’t a reality certainly five months ago and [I’ve] been quite fortunate with some of that recovery and to be named in the squad is really exciting for me and just really looking forward to getting out there again. It was nice to do that today.
“It was largely pretty good, which was pleasing. Nice to sort of build on that. It was a fantastic hit-out obviously. Pakistan are an outstanding side. I mean both teams were trying to get what they wanted out of it, in terms of bowlers getting overs they needed and time in the legs. So, it’s an exercise, but also nice to compete and do all those things. As a bowling unit and batting unit, plenty to take away from it. There’s always things to work on and it was a great batting performance today. It was a really good surface and it’s nice that we were able to put together partnerships and get time in the middle.”
“It was great to see Kane out there albeit only with the bat today,” Stead told NZC media after the game. “We’re hoping he will field 20-25 overs in the next game and we are slowly building him up towards that and making sure he can land and dive and do what he needs to do in the field to take full part for us in the future parts of the tournament.
“It was great to see Kane looking like he hadn’t been away from the game. So, awesome to see and I think pretty warming overall from the team perspective that we know he’s pretty close to getting to full fitness; not quite there yet, but we have another step on the way back today.”
Pakistan could have cut Williamson’s innings short on 36, but Imam-ul-Haq dropped the catch at extra cover. Williamson then unfurled a variety of sweeps, including the reverse, against the spinners. He reached his fifty with a hard-run single off seamer Mohammad Wasim in the 18th over. Williamson’s right knee was heavily strapped during warm-ups in the lead-up to the game, but overall he ticked quite a few World Cup boxes during his comeback.
Santner also impresses on return
On Friday, he took the new ball and handcuffed both Babar Azam and Abdullah Shafique in the powerplay. Then, when Shafique charged at him to manufacture a stroke, Santner went wide of the crease, shortened his length and had him stumped for 14 off 25 balls. Later, he returned to have Babar dragging a sweep to Daryl Mitchell at wide long-on. He didn’t complete his quota, with New Zealand opting to give their other bowlers a chance to bowl.
With or without Young, Ravindra could potentially make the XI when New Zealand visit spin-friendly Chennai for their matches against Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo