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NZ’s Williamson overtakes Smith, Kohli as top Test batsman

AUCKLAND: New Zealand captain Kane Williamson enters the New Year as the top-ranked Test batsman after leapfrogging Australia’s Steve Smith and India’s Virat Kohli in the latest ICC Men’s Test Player Rankings issued on Thursday.

In Thursday’s year-ending update, Williamson has gained 13 rating points after hitting a match-winning century in the opening Test against Pakistan to help New Zealand win by 101 runs at Mount Maunganui on Wednesday.

This year, Smith was at the top for 313 days and Kohli for 51, before Williamson surged ahead of his two contemporaries. Williamson gained 13 rating points for his effort of 129 and 21 to go 11 points clear of Kohli and 13 ahead of Smith.

The New Zealand skipper described it as ‘humbling’ to overtake Smith, saying that both Kohli and Smith were incredible players of the generation. “Those two players are the best so for me to sneak up perhaps in some way, is very surprising and humbling,” he added.

For Pakistan, Fawad Alam’s valiant second-innings century has lifted him 80 places to 102nd position while wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan’s scores of 71 and 60 have helped him advance 27 places to a career-best 47th position. Left-arm fast bowler Shaheen Afridi has moved from 35th to 33rd after grabbing four wickets in the first innings.

Ajinkya Rahane, leading in Kohli’s absence, has gained big after guiding India to a series-levelling eight-wicket win in Melbourne with scores of 112 and 27 not out. Rahane has advanced five places to reach sixth position.

In Centurion, a knock of 199 by Faf du Plessis saw him not only win the player of the match award but also gain 14 places to reach 21st position, one behind team-mate Dean Elgar.

In the ICC Test Team Rankings, New Zealand are in line to wrest the top spot from Australia, who remain fractionally ahead since the Test team rankings are updated only at the end of each series.

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