Crafty Southee, silken Williamson, and dazzling debuts

Kane Williamson steers one through the off side Getty Images

Kane Williamson and Tim Southee will both play their 50th Test for New Zealand, against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. Both men have done their bits, with bat and ball, respectively, to build New Zealand into a competitive Test outfit that has steadily climbed the rankings. Their mini-milestone makes them part of an elite club. Only 18 other New Zealand players have racked up 50 caps, and of those, just three have gone on to double the number.

"As Kiwis, we are stuck with eight Tests a year, so for them to achieve 50 Tests - it's over a long period of time. Tim has grown in stature over the last couple of years and Kane has been Kane for a long period of time. They've both put in big performances for us." -- BJ Watling

ESPNcricinfo takes a look at three of the biggest moments in the careers of New Zealand's Northern Districts team-mates.

Dazzling debuts

Both Southee and Williamson made an immediate impact after making their Test debuts.

Southee was drafted into the XI for the third Test of the 2008 home series against England on the back of performances at the Under-19 World Cup in Malaysia, after Kyle Mills was injured. By that stage, Southee had already made his debut in the shorter formats. Daniel Vettori believed he was ready and Southee showed exactly that.

In his second over, he had Michael Vaughan trapped lbw, and went on to remove Andrew Strauss as England's top order crashed to 4 for 3. Later, Southee claimed Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and Ryan Sidebottom to finish with 5 for 55, but it was not enough to prevent a New Zealand defeat.

Two years later, Williamson, who had been on New Zealand's radar from the age of 14, but whose international career began with a couple of ducks in ODIs, was picked for the first Test of the tour of India, in Ahmedabad. After watching India pile on the runs, he saw his own side slip, before pulling them up to level terms through a 194-run stand with Jesse Ryder - New Zealand's second-highest fifth-wicket stand in Tests. Both batsmen notched up centuries, with Williamson's back-foot technique particularly standing out. His efforts helped New Zealand draw the match.

Subcontinental success

Making an impact on the surfaces in the subcontinent is seen as a defining moment in a cricketer's career. For Southee, that came in 2012, when Williamson had a second success.

Southee's swing got the better of India in Bangalore where he accounted for all but three of their batsmen on his way to 7 for 64. Southee dismissed Gautam Gambhir and Cheteshwar Pujara in his opening spell, Suresh Raina later on, before engineering a lower-order collapse in which India lost four wickets for 19 runs. Of note was the way he consistently moved the ball away from the right-handers and used the offcutter. New Zealand took a 12-run first-innings lead, but still lost the match. Southee followed up with a five-for against Sri Lanka in Colombo later that year.

In that same Colombo Test, Williamson scored his third Test century and put on a defiant 262-run third-wicket stand with Ross Taylor. Having already lost the first match, New Zealand had slipped to 14 for 2, when Williamson and Taylor came together and showed fight. In a chanceless five hours at the crease, Williamson's work off the back foot was particularly impressive, but his ability against spin too made the century special. New Zealand won the match and squared the series. Williamson has since struck centuries in Chittagong and Sharjah.

On the Lord's honours board

Being recognised at the Home of Cricket is also an important step in a cricketer's career. Southee's moment came in the first Test of their 2013 tour, when he kept New Zealand in the match after England had taken a slender first-innings lead. At 159 for 2 in the second innings, England were 184 ahead when Southee flattened Joe Root's middle stump and took out Johnny Bairstow's entire set, before bouncing out Matt Prior to take three wickets in 16 deliveries. He went on to remove Ian Bell and Graeme Swann to finish with 6 for 50. New Zealand had a gettable 239 to chase, but were bowled out for 68.

Williamson's inscription on the board came two years later, in 2015. After England posted 389, New Zealand began a solid reply, but it was Williamson who allowed them to edge ahead with another solid stand with Taylor - of 189 runs - and an assured century, his 10th in Test cricket. Williamson had not batted for more than a month before that innings, but his timing, especially through third man, and his concentration at the crease were the complete opposite of a man who may have been out of touch. He ensured New Zealand took a healthy 134-run lead, although they eventually lost by 124 runs.