Tom Latham‘s unbeaten 186 on the opening day of the Christchurch Test against Bangladesh brought to an end a 26-month century drought and reinforced his status as one of the finest Test batters to emerge from New Zealand.
After 63 Tests (including the ongoing match), Latham is New Zealand’s ninth-highest run-getter in Tests with 4,420 runs, and is within touching distance of overtaking Nathan Astle and Daniel Vettori’s career tallies. Among all New Zealand batters with 3,000-plus Test runs, Latham’s current average – 42.50 – is the fourth-best, behind Kane Williamson, Martin Crowe and Ross Taylor, widely considered three of the best Test batters from the island nation.
By reaching three figures in Christchurch, Latham moved up to joint-fourth on New Zealand’s all-time list of most Test hundreds, below Williamson, Taylor and Crowe, and tied with John Wright and Brendon McCullum.
At home, he averages a sweet 49.29, (which could push past 50 after this game), bettered, again, only by the trio of Williamson, Crowe and Taylor (among those with 1,000-plus runs in New Zealand). He’s one of eight New Zealanders to hit 250 or more in a Test, and only the fifth to do so this century.
Latham has been part of a New Zealand setup that has evolved from being an average red-ball unit to a formidable Test force. A good chunk of their success at home is linked to their enviable pace-bowling army; on the batting front though, Latham has been the perfect supplement for Williamson and Taylor’s brilliance.
So far, seven of Latham’s tons have resulted in Test wins, the third-highest for New Zealand, behind the two names mentioned above. In terms of runs, too, Latham’s name comes third.
When settled in, Latham has often shown the ability to spend hours at the crease unmoved, a trait that has become synonymous with his batting over the years. In 2018, he became just the 14th opener this century to carry his bat in a Test innings – his 264* against Sri Lanka is the highest managed by an opening batter in the history of Tests when carrying his bat.
Brought into the squad as a replacement for Jesse Ryder and cover for Ross Taylor, Latham has proved to be a rock at the top of the order for New Zealand. The side had previously struggled to find a stable opening pair in the format, with Latham one of only two Kiwi players (along with Wright) to have opened in 100 or more innings for the Black Caps. Both Wright and Latham are at the top of the openers list with 12 tons each, and Latham just one short of Wright’s count of 35-plus fifty-plus scores at the top.
Since his debut in February 2014, only David Warner and Dimuth Karunaratne have scored more Test runs than Latham among all openers, with his tally of hundred being the joint-third highest, behind Warner and Karunaratne and tied with Elgar.
His overseas record still has scope for improvement, with the average away from home standing at 36.89, a few notches below his overall number. He’s scored two centuries in the UAE, two in Zimbabwe, and one in Sri Lanka – yet, the tally of five away tons is bettered only by Williamson, Taylor, Crowe and Stephen Fleming.
With Taylor retiring from Tests, there could be a bigger role for the New Zealand vice-captain to play in Tests henceforth. The two-year drought might have slowed down his progress a tad, but at 29, there’s still plenty to look forward to, and he might actually end up ranking among the country’s very best cricketers by the time he’s done.