Kane Williamson absence could be blessing in disguise for New Zealand

Kane Williamson`s absence for possibly the next three matches against Sri Lanka could be a blessing in disguise for New Zealand, with the batting order given the opportunity to fine tune plans for the World Cup.

Reuters| Updated: Jan 14, 2015, 12:41 PM IST
Kane Williamson absence could be blessing in disguise for New Zealand

Wellington: Kane Williamson`s absence for possibly the next three matches against Sri Lanka could be a blessing in disguise for New Zealand, with the batting order given the opportunity to fine tune plans for the World Cup.

Test opener Tom Latham will bat in Williamson`s place at number three in the second game against Sri Lanka in Hamilton on Thursday, top-order batsman Ross Taylor said on Wednesday.

Williamson, who is out for about seven to 10 days with a slight shoulder injury, has scored 722 runs, including seven half centuries and one century, at 72.20 in the past 12 months and is considered crucial to the co-hosts World Cup hopes.

New Zealand co-host the Feb. 14-March 29 World Cup with Australia.

"It`s probably a good thing," Taylor said of Williamson`s enforced absence. "We want to see how these guys handle themselves under pressure.

"Kane has been the go-to guy for the last 12-18 months. It will be different but exciting as well to see how (these guys) go under pressure, (which) bodes well for the World Cup."

New Zealand must also explore options at number five, with Latham and Grant Elliott thought to be contesting the spot for the global showpiece after captain Brendon McCullum reverted to opening the batting.

He belted a 19-ball half century in the first match in Christchurch, which gave the hosts a flying start in pursuit of the 219 runs needed for victory.

The recalled Elliott batted at five in the three-wicket win in the first match at Hagley Oval and was expected to play there on Thursday, added Taylor, though the all-rounder was absent from training due to a family issue on Wednesday.

A decision on his availability may not be made until Thursday.

Elliott`s selection at five was not an indication he had the inside track on the job for the World Cup, Taylor said.

Statistics suggest Latham`s best position is at the top of the order, where has time to build an innings.

Latham has scored 146 runs at 24.33 in his last eight ODI innings, all in the middle order, while his highest career score, 86, came as an opener.

"I wouldn`t say because Grant is batting there at the moment that he has the number on Tom," Taylor said.

"Tom gets to bat up the order and that gives you a little bit more time. Five is a difficult spot to bat but three has a little bit more time and hopefully he can take his opportunity there."