A champion: Top 5 Test knocks of BJ Watling | Looking at the top knocks of keeper-batsman BJ Watling in Test cricket for New Zealand
Well known for his grit and determination, BJ Watling is regarded as one of the finest wicket-keeping batsman of the current era. In a Test career spanning more than a decade, Watling has played 73 games so far and has scored 3,773 runs at a healthy average of 38.11 with 8 centuries and 19 half centuries.
Recently, Watling announced that he would be retiring from international cricket after the much awaited final of the first World Test Championship against India. So, in this article I am going to highlight five of his outstanding Test knocks as a tribute to the solid wk-batsman. Here we go.
5. 103 (182) vs Bangladesh (Chittagong, 2013)
The knocks played by a batsman from SENA countries in Asia are always special for them, aren’t they? This innings against Bangladesh was surely one of BJ Watling’s finest in the subcontinent. This was the first Test of the series and New Zealand opted to bat first after winning the toss. They got a really good start and were 244 for the loss of just 2 wickets at one stage. But they lost 4 quick wickets including the wicket of a set Kane Williamson and soon were reduced to 282 for 6 when Watling joined Corey Anderson in the middle.
To make the situation worse, Anderson departed on the same team score and Watling had to bat with the tail to ensure a solid total in the first innings for his team. Initially, he consolidated the innings alongside Doug Bracewell as they formed a good partnership of 57 runs for the 8th wicket. After Ish Sodhi dismissed for 1, Watling took charge of scoring well, supported by the number 11 batsman, Trent Boult.
Watling played the Bangladeshi spinners extremely well, and batted for almost 42 overs with Boult, adding 127 runs for the last wicket. Watling played some really gorgeous shots whenever he got chances and his innings included six lovely fours and two big sixes. This knock proved to be really crucial for the visitors as they were able to post a very healthy total of 469 in the first innings.
4. 77* (250) vs Pakistan (Abu Dhabi, 2018)
Embed from Getty Images
This knock was the testimony of surreal patience and supreme temperament of BJ Watling. It was the third and final Test of the series and the series was level at 1-1. So it was very important for the Kiwis to win this match in order to draw the series. After electing to bat first, New Zealand lost 4 quick wickets and were placed at 72 for 4 when Watling entered the middle to bat alongside Kane Williamson. The ball was turning and Yasir Shah was looking lethal as he had picked 3 out of those 4 wickets.
However, they batted for more than 41 overs and added 104 runs for the 5th wicket. Watling played the supportive role in this partnership and scored 27 runs off 125 balls. After Williamson got out, he batted alongside Colin de Grandhomme and the tail-enders till the end. His partnership of 45 runs with William Somerville ensured a total excess of 250 for New Zealand. He was extremely gritty throughout the innings and hit just 4 boundaries. He put the price on his wicket and let the Pakistani bowlers toil hard. His priceless unbeaten knock of 77 was crucial for New Zealand to recover from a bad situation and post a respectable total of 274 in their first innings. Later, New Zealand went on to win the game and end the series in an emphatic manner.
3. 124 (367) vs India (Wellington, 2014)
Embed from Getty Images
This was another gem of a knock played by BJ Watling under extremely difficult circumstances. This was the final Test match of the 2-match series and New Zealand were bowled out for a paltry 192 in their first innings courtesy a fine six-wicket haul by Ishant Sharma. In reply, the visitors went on to score a solid total of 438, thanks to a superb century by Ajinkya Rahane and fine half centuries by Shikhar Dhawan and MS Dhoni.
After conceding a lead of a huge 246 runs, New Zealand needed some really big individual contributions in their second innings in order to avoid defeat. But, they were in a miserable position after losing their first 5 wickets for just 94 runs when BJ Watling joined Brendon McCullum in the middle. What followed next was nothing short of a miracle. Watling and McCullum stitched a marathon partnership of 352 runs and stayed in the middle for 123 overs.
Although McCullum got his famous triple hundred, Watling’s support was priceless in the context of the match. He stood there like a rock and faced 367 deliveries. His knock of 124 involved 13 gorgeous fours. New Zealand declared their innings on 680 and thus India got an impossible target of 435 to chase in their 2nd innings. The game ended in a draw and the home side clinched the series by 1-0, which wouldn’t have been possible without the contribution of BJ Watling.
2. 120 (163) vs England (Headingley, 2015)
Embed from Getty Images
This was the 2nd and final Test of the series and England had taken a lead of 1-0 by winning the first match at Lord’s. Both teams scored 350 in their respective first innings and hence it was very important for New Zealand to post a good total in their 2nd innings in order to give a competitive target to the home side to chase in the 4th innings. They were on spot of a bother being placed at 141 for 4 when Martin Guptill was dismissed after scoring an aggressive 70 and Watling joined hands with the skipper Brendon McCullum in the middle.
They stitched a brilliant partnership of 121 runs for the 5th wicket, in which Watling’s contribution was 70 off 109. After the departure of McCullum, Watling formed two useful partnerships of 53 runs each with Luke Ronchi and Mark Craig. In the course of this, he completed his 5th test century in just 136 balls. His knock of 120 involved 15 gorgeous fours and a solitary six. He got out when the score was 368, which was a pretty healthy score. Mark Craig and Tim Southee further propelled New Zealand to 454 and they eventually went on to register a famous victory by bundling the Englishmen out for 255.
Watling was given the “player of the match” award for his outstanding knock.
1. 205 (473) vs England (Mount Maunganui, 2019)
Embed from Getty Images
I would definitely say that his lone double hundred is the finest test knock of BJ Watling. This was the first test of the 2-match series and England had posted a competitive total of 353 in their first innings after choosing to bat first. In reply, New Zealand were in all sorts of trouble as they were placed at 127 for 4 at one stage and needed someone to step up in order to get close to the first innings total of England.
As they say, “cometh the hour, cometh the man”, BJ Watling rescued the Kiwis and proved himself yet again as “Mr Dependable” in a crunch situation. He formed two vital partnerships of 70 and 119 runs with Henry Nicholls and Colin de Grandhomme respectively. His marathon partnership of 261 runs with Mitchell Santner ensured a huge lead for the home side. His amazing knock of 205 off 473 included 24 glorious fours and a solitary six. New Zealand were able to score a mammoth 615 in their first innings largely due to his heroic double century and later they dismissed England for just 197 and won the game by an innings and 65 runs. Watling was awarded “man of the match” for his magnificent knock.
If batting with the tail is an art, Watling is definitely a Picasso in it. He has been a really vital member of the New Zealand Test side over the years and his contributions have been phenomenal in the rise of New Zealand to the top spot in ICC test rankings. This is my list of 5 of the enormous spectacular knocks he has played in his Test career. Have your say!
Written by Debashish Sarangi. Follow Debashish on Twitter today.