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Kane Williamson ‘under no illusions’ that Test series against South Africa is going to be tough work

Former New Zealand Test captain Kane Williamson is confident that he has recovered successfully from the hamstring injury he suffered during the T20I series against Pakistan last month and is fit for the first Test against South Africa that gets underway on February 4 in Mount Maunganui.

“My hamstring is good, it’s progressed well in the last couple of weeks. Feeling good, and looking forward to getting back to training and joining up with the team,” Williamson said. “The weather has been incredible. Extremely hot, so yup I am confident and like I said will just be nice to join back up with the side and I think all the guys are really looking forward to getting back together as a Test team.”

New Zealand have been grappling with a few injuries ahead of the first Test. Williamson missed a fair chunk of cricket last year having first ruptured his ACL at the IPL following which he suffered a fractured thumb at the ODI World Cup and then had a hamstring strain. Meanwhile, fast bowler Kyle Jamieson has been laid low with a back injury while wicketkeeper-batter Tom Blundell also suffered a hamstring injury.

Williamson, however, reckoned that New Zealand were relatively injury-free going into the first Test.

“I just saw them [Blundell and Jamieson] in the lunch room and they looked comfortable eating well and I think they are fine,” Williamson said. “Obviously with these injuries, they can vary a lot from individual to individual and Tom with his hamstring took a little bit longer having tendon involved. I think he is good, rearing to go and Kyle bowled a spell a few days ago and I think got through nicely. I think everyone is fit and well.”

With several first-choice players busy fulfilling their SA20 commitments, South Africa divided opinions within the cricketing fraternity by sending a second-string squad for the New Zealand Tests which has as many as eight uncapped players, including captain Neil Brand. Williamson, though, said there was no chance he was taking the South Africa squad lightly and just wanted his team to focus on the cricket ahead.

“For us, we just want to focus on the cricket that we want to play and the plans that we have and that doesn’t change from opposition to opposition,” he said. “There are adjustments within the conditions etc, but there are a number of players in the South African side that members of our team are quite certainly familiar with playing county cricket and these things.

“So we are under no illusions that it is going to be a tough contest for sure. They are all very good players and we just want to keep bringing the focus back to our cricket.”

Do the unknowns in the South Africa squad then bother Williamson as there is not a lot of information available about them?

“I mean, definitely, there is less knowledge on some of their player. That is a challenge,” Williamson said. “A number of guys are reasonably familiar with the players but it is certainly a new-look team so like I said it is important we do our homework as we do with any opposition but also really focus on our cricket.”

New Zealand are chasing history having never beaten South Africa in a Test series. What they are also looking at is collecting a few World Test Championship [WTC] points. New Zealand are third on the points table behind South Africa and a series win could well help them move to second place.

“Any win anywhere is crucial,” Williamson said. “That’s why it is difficult to micro-manage a Test championship campaign. It’s such a long period of time and the games can come a bit sporadically with the Test cricket so it’s trying to just connect together as a group, focus on the cricket that we want to play that gives us the best chance and try and do that for long periods of time. That’s the focus going into the series.”

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