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Kane Williamson of New Zealand became the best Test batsman in the world currently, after he scored three straight tons, including 2 double tons, in as many Tests. Virat Kohli of India takes the second spot, followed by Steve Smith of Australia. 

For a long time, the battle for the top Test batsman was between Kohli and Smith, but Williamson has joined the race and bagged the top spot after Smith and Kohli could not have much of an impact in Test cricket last year as the pandemic ensured fewer Tests were played in 2020.

So, among Kohli, Smith, and Williamson, who is a better Test batsman?

How their Test career has panned out

Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli - Photo courtesy: ICC Facebook page

Kohli’s Test career is a story of two halves. In the first half of his Test career, he was finding his groove in the longer version of the game and was content in making the usual tons that made him the best successor to Sachin Tendulkar’s No 4 spot. 

But Kohli’s rise as a Test cricketer turned overnight when he donned the responsibility of captaincy in the 2014 Test series Down Under. He became the only captain to struck three tons in his first three innings as skipper. And he has never looked back since, striking 7 double tons as skipper, and helping India reach the No 1 rank in Test cricket, winning all home series, and the 2018-19 Test series against Australia Down Under.

Steve Smith

Steve Smith - Photo courtesy: ICC Facebook page 

Smith started his Test career as a leg-spinner all-rounder and used to bat lower down the order. He then shifted his focus on batting, and turned around his international career, with his effective but unorthodox technique. Now, he is the best Test batsman of the Australia squad, and his Test batting average of 62.07 is next to Sir Don Bradman (99.94).

Kane Williamson

Kane Williamson - Photo courtesy: ICC Facebook page 

Williamson has evolved over time and has now added consistency to his game. Thanks to the magical rise of Smith and Kohli as Test batsmen, Williamson was ignored, and not given due credit, until now when he is rewriting record books with his batting. He is also the best Test batsman for his team and has moved past veteran Ross Taylor as the center of the batting line-up.

4th innings average

A Test batsman is known for his knocks in the 4th innings as it is when the team needs a batsman to score runs the most. Besides, a score in the fourth innings is rated higher as the pitch is at its worst, and the bowling attack is going all out for a win or saving a match. In these circumstances, Kohli (49.77) and Williamson (49.14) edge past Smith, who has a batting average of just 30.73 in the fourth innings.

Average in won matches

All three batsmen – Kohli, Williamson, and Smith – enjoy a high batting average of 60 and above in the won Tests, indicating their performance is directly proportional to the success of their teams. Kohli has a batting average of 60.50, Smith 79.58, and Williamson 78.29 in the won Tests for their teams. But Smith enjoys the best batting average among the three in the won Tests for their teams.

Captain’s knocks

All three players love to lead from the front, enjoying a batting average of 60 and above in the Tests, they have led for their teams. Kohli has a batting average of 60.69 as captain, Smith 70.36, and Williamson 62.81, indicating they set an example for their team members.

Away performances

Another benchmark of a good Test batsman is his performance in away matches. And in this case, Smith wins this battle hands down, averaging 60.15, while both Kohli and Williamson average in the mid-40s.

Verdict: 

The fight for the top Test batsman between the three players is extremely close, but Smith is marginally ahead of the two as he raises his game in tough conditions overseas, and his performance with the bat helps raise the chance of a win for his team is the highest as compared to Williamson and Kohli.

Cover image courtesy: ICC Facebook page