Kane Williamson's century propelled New Zealand to 321 for 4 at stumps. © Getty Images

Kane Williamson’s century propelled New Zealand to 321 for 4 at stumps. © Getty Images

A masterful Kane Williamson century propelled New Zealand ahead of South Africa by stumps on day three of the series-deciding final Test in Hamilton on Monday (March 27).

It was the 17th ton by Williamson, equalling Martin Crowe’s New Zealand record. The New Zealand captain featured in a commanding 190-run stand with Jeet Raval for the second wicket.

Raval’s dismissal late in the day for 88 triggered a revival for South Africa as New Zealand slipped from 273 for 1 to 321 for 4 at stumps in reply to South Africa’s 314 all out.

Williamson was unbeaten on 148 with Mitchell Santner on 13.

New Zealand, battling to square the series which South Africa lead 1-0, took control on the third day after rain delayed the start. Raval resumed with Tom Latham who progressed from his overnight 42 to 50 before he was caught behind by a diving Quinton de Kock off Morne Morkel.

It was to be another 58 overs before a second wicket would fall, as Williamson joined Raval to dictate terms to a bowling attack toiling on a flat track.

Faf du Plessis, the South African skipper, had identified Williamson’s wicket as a key to beating New Zealand, and the No.3 batsman showed why as he moved quickly into attack mode, mindful of time lost because of the weather.

Williamson worked the ball to all parts of the ground including a six off Keshav Maharaj’s left-arm spin over the bowler’s head. He followed up with two more off Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel over the square leg boundary — three sixes in one innings from a batsman who only had nine from his previous 60 Tests.

The six off Philander made him the sixth and fastest New Zealander to reach 5,000 Test runs, getting there in 110 innings, seven quicker than the previous record set by Crowe.

When Williamson smacked part-timer Dean Elgar to the boundary for his hundred, he equalled Crowe’s New Zealand record of 17 centuries but took 16 fewer Tests to get there.

While Williamson punished the bowling, Raval was impressively patient as he picked up ones and twos off the pace attack of Philander, Morkel and Kagiso Rabada. He batted for 390 minutes and faced 254 balls for his 88, before falling to the Morkel-de Kock combination.

Unlike Latham, whose edge had the wicketkeeper diving to his left to take a one-handed catch, the left-hander Raval had an inside edge which forced de Kock to dive to his right to take another one-handed catch down the legside.

Rabada then accounted for Neil Broom (12) and Henry Nicholls (nought) in successive balls before Santner joined Williamson to guide New Zealand through to stumps.

For South Africa, Morkel had 2 for 74 and Rabada had 2 for 83.