Smith, Root and Williamson to the fore as Test cricket returns


The whirlwind that was the World Twenty20 has subsided and Test cricket returns in its stead as England and Sri Lanka meet at Headingley this week.

Lines have become increasingly blurred between red-ball and white-ball cricket in recent years, but three batsmen have shone brightest in the past 12 months - Steve Smith, Joe Root and Kane Williamson.

The three highest-ranked batters in the ICC Test rankings, we profile the trio ahead of the longest format's return.


STEVE SMITH - 3,852 Test runs at 60.18. Highest score: 215

Smith's journey from a potential Shane Warne successor to the world's number one Test batsman has been remarkable.

Three years after making his Test bow against Pakistan in 2010, Smith's transformation from an inconsistent all-rounder was complete and he brought up a first Test ton in the 2013 Ashes series at The Oval.

With an athleticism that translates to all formats, but stands out in Tests, Smith captained his country for the first time against India in late 2014, after Michael Clarke was forced to withdraw due to injury. 

Where many batsmen have faltered under the burden of such responsibility, Smith did not bow to the pressure, racking up hundreds in the first innings of each of the four Tests.

A double hundred at Lord's in the 2015 Ashes was another display of Smith's belligerent best and helped him to make an unmatched 1,474 Test runs in the year. 


JOE ROOT - 3,406 Test runs at 54.93. Highest score: 200*

Root's short career has already had several peaks and troughs, but upward momentum seems locked in for England's key batsman.

An impressive debut in India secured Root's place in the Test picture, which he backed up with a maiden Test century against New Zealand at his county home Headingley.

However a move up to the top of the order in the 2013-14 Ashes whitewash Down Under was a serious setback for Root, who claimed to have drunk "more beers in that series than I scored runs".

Dropped for the final Test after Mitchell Johnson had ruthlessly exposed frailties on the back foot, Root came back with a vengeance, and has since averaged almost 70 in Test cricket.

A Test-best unbeaten 200 followed against Sri Lanka, as well as sharing a record 198-run 10th-wicket partnership with James Anderson against India.

He has since jostled with Smith for top spot in the Test rankings and has been earmarked as a near-certain future England captain. 


KANE WILLIAMSON - 4,037 Test runs at 49.23. Highest score: 242*

Williamson made a splash with 131 on Test debut against India in Ahmedabad, and has since established himself as one of the classiest batsmen in any format, as well as New Zealand's batting lynchpin.

Noted for a risk-free style that goes against many of his contemporaries in this T20 age - including regular partner Brendon McCullum - Williamson is seen as something of a throw-back, but his output is very much 21st Century.

The classy right-hander has impressive centuries to his name in all conditions, whether the sub-continent turners of India and the UAE, to Australia's hard-deck bouncers and the swinging green-tops of England.

Williamson was the youngest Black Caps player to reach 3,000 Test runs and looks certain to overtake Kiwi greats McCullum (6,453) and Stephen Fleming (7,172) as the country's top run-scorer in his career.

McCullum's retirement also paved the way for Williamson to take on the New Zealand captaincy, as their transformation into a major player across the formats gathers pace.