The South African key to New Zealand’s World Test Championship push

For years the New Zealand test team have been on the precipice of becoming the world’s best side.

With superb veteran bowlers in Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, and Tim Southee complimenting some of the world’s best batters in Kane Williamson, Tom Latham, and Ross Taylor, there are only a few areas the Kiwis can improve in if they are to make the final leap ahead of their upcoming World Test Championship final against India.

Set to be played at Southampton from June 18-22, New Zealand may have unveiled a final piece of the puzzle overnight when they handed a debut to opening batter Devon Conway.

The South African-born Conway has bided his time to be approved by the ICC to play for New Zealand, waiting until 2020 to receive eligibility. After a wonderful start to his Twenty20 and one-day international career in the Kiwi outfit, the left-hander finally got his chance to feature at the top of the order for New Zealand’s test team in the first test against England at Lord’s.

Devon Conway has already plundered Australia at the limited overs format, but can he now do it in test cricket? (Photo – Cricket Australia)

The 29-year-old has seized his chance, sending ripples through the international cricket scene when he finished the first day’s play on 136 not out off 240 balls.

A positive start quickly got his test career away against the vintage quality of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, as Conway continued to hold his composure when steady wickets fell. By the end of the day, he was the lynchpin, outlasting Williamson and Taylor to push New Zealand to a commanding 3-246 at Stumps.

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It may only be one day of a two-test series, but Conway’s maiden knock has major implications for not only the make up of the Blackcaps XI moving forwards, but the overall test cricket landscape.

With the inaugural World Test Championship final only a couple of weeks away between New Zealand and the strong Indian side, the timing of Conway’s unbeaten ton couldn’t have been better.

His experience in the game, having played domestic cricket in New Zealand, England, and South Africa, makes him a perfect late addition to a Kiwi side looking for sturdiness in their top order alongside Tom Latham, before the middle order stability of Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, and Henry Nicholls. Instead of the big three, Conway could finally be the long-awaited answer to partner Latham at the top of the order. His first-class average of 47.21 after 108 matches proves his consistency over time.

More importantly, he is also a wicketkeeper by trade, providing yet another option for New Zealand to pick from when long-standing keeper BJ Watling retires at the conclusion of the England tour.

New Zealand has had a troubled history in the past few years trying to unearth a solid and reliable opening partner alongside Latham. In the past few seasons, the likes of Jeet Raval and Tom Blundell have had their moments without being able to hold their own consistently against the world’s best bowling attacks.

If the veteran Conway can continue to plunder England on day two at the home of cricket and continue his great form into the all-important WTC final, then New Zealand’s cries for another wonderful opening batter may finally be answered. Ironically, the response will come from a Johannesburg-born South African who only just received eligibility to play for the Kiwis. It’s funny how cricket can work.

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