World Test Championship Final Preview.
After two long years of Test cricket & coronavirus interruption, the World Test Championship Final is finally here.
Rising Kiwis are slightly better prepared against world beaters India with a series against England. India has been in England for a few weeks due to quarantine but have only played an internal practice match.
Two of the best teams on show, finally some context for Test cricket, BJ Watling’s retirement, but will rain spoil it all?
Also Read: Alternative World Test Championship Points Table, 5 Things To Watch Out From the World Test Championship Final
Why Is The WTC Final Significant? A Brief History
The idea of the World Test Championship is not a new one.
World Test Championship was supposed to become a reality in 2009, 2013, & 2017, but each of those iterations were cancelled in favor of much more lucrative, ICC ODI Champions Trophy.
Imagine an Indian team comprising of Sehwag, Sachin, Dravid, VVS Laxman, MS Dhoni, Zaheer Khan competing against McCullum’s 2015 team or even better, the golden South African era of Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith, AB De Villiers, & Dale Steyn earlier in the decade.
Anyway, World Test Championship finally came into existence in 2019 and began with the England-Australia Ashes series. 58 matches later, India and New Zealand are deservedly in the finals, carrying bench strengths of envy.Embed from Getty Images
When And Where?
Here is the date and the venue for the World Test Championship Final. It is linked to ESPNCricinfo’s scorecard and live updates.
- The World Test Championship Final, June 18th-22nd, Southampton (Ageas Bowl)
- 25% spectator capacity will be allowed in the stadium.
ICC Changes implemented
The new ICC playing conditions are now in place. Two of the most prominent for this match will be:
- The LBW zone for DRS umpire call decisions has been shifted a little bit. It would be interesting to see how many LBW decisions are overturned in this Test match.
- A reserve sixth day will be utilized in case all possible overs are not recovered during the five days. Looks highly likely that the sixth day will come into play.
A couple of other little changes will also be in place.
Rain, Rain Go Away
There is a 100% rain forecast for the first four days of the Tests and then down to 80% and 70% for the couple of days after. Well, it is England….
Recent ICC Record
Here is a recent ODI & T20I World Cup history for India and New Zealand. Both teams have underwhelmed over the past decade given their talent. Since 2007, here is how the teams stack up.
India At ICC Events
- Champions Trophy – Winner (2013), Runners-Up (2017)
- ODI World Cup – Winner (2011), Semi-finals (2015), Semi-finals (2019)
- T20I World Cup – Winner (2007), Runners-Up (2014), Semi-finals (2016)
New Zealand At ICC Events
- Champions Trophy – Runners-Up (2009)
- ODI World Cup – Semi-finals (2007), Semi-finals (2011), Runners-Up (2015), Runners-Up (2019)
- T20I World Cup – Semi-finals (2007), Semi-finals (2016)
These records are meaningless because tomorrow is a new day and Test cricket is just another beast.Embed from Getty Images
Road To the Finals
India began by routing West Indies in the Caribbean, before securing points at home against lackluster South Africa & Bangladesh teams.
Then came the tours Down Under. While Kiwis routed India in swing bowling conditions, India delivered a masterclass of ages in Australia. After 36/9 in Adelaide, Rahane’s century resurrected India in Melbourne. Then, the Pujara-Pant-Vihari-Ashwin show ensured India survived the 3rd Test, and the youngsters Shardul-Sundar-Pant-Siraj broke the Gabba fort to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Finally, the England home series was a completely one-sided event even after Joe Root’s classic gave England a headstart at Chennai. Ashwin’s all-round magic at home & Axar Patel’s memorable debut ensured India ease past England.
- IND VS AUS Series Review 2020-21: The Greatest Story of Them All? Better Than Ashes 2005?
- IND VS ENG 2021 Test Series Review: Sharmas, Spinners Overshadowed By Umpiring, Pitch, and Rotation Policy
*Signifies away series
New Zealand’s road to glory was much more formulaic.
The Kiwis started with away tours of Sri Lanka & Australia. While they put on a good show in New Zealand, winning one match, they were hammered in Australia (barring Neil Wagner’s intense series).
At home, it was same old. Swinging conditions. Boult, Southee, and debutant of the year, Kyle Jamieson, wrecked havoc against India and West Indies. Only Pakistan provided any semblance of resistance with Fawad Alam’s classic fourth innings ton going in vain with four overs left in the Test match.
- NZ Vs WI 2020 Series Review: Setback or Sunset for the Windies?
- NZ Vs PAK 2020 Series Review: Williamson, Jamieson, And A Little Bit of Pakistan
|New Zealand||Matches||Series Results|
World Test Championship Final Preview – The Teams
- Watch out for Ajinkya Rahane. He has a tendency to perform when it matters the most although his lack of consistency is frustrating. Rahane’s leadership & century in Melbourne was the catalyst for India in the memorable Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Since then, his form has gone hiding. England will bring back nice personal memories, and he is probably India’s best batter in swinging conditions. It is high time he shows up.
- There were rumors that Mohammad Siraj would play in place of one of Mohammad Shami or Ishant Sharma, but that did not happen. India’s bowling has variety with Bumrah’s accuracy, Ishant’s seam, and Shami’s reverse swing. Looking forward to watch Ishant, who is in his 4th and most rewarding phase of his career. His 7-74 at Lord’s in the last tour was especially spectacular.
- Tributes have started flowing in for BJ Watling in his retirement match. This one is my favorite, especially his mom’s statement. Watling has been a symbol of this rising team’s resilience and stability. Always solid behind the stumps, he will go down as Kiwis’s greatest keeper, but what I will miss the most is his rearguard action. NZ’s middle order rarely collapsed, but when it did, Watling was at the rescue. The question is, does he have one fighting innings left in him?
- This is a very understated team, but do you know who is the New Zealand in the New Zealand team? Tom Latham & Henry Nicholls. When the Conways, Williamsons, or Taylors make huge scores around them, you can guarantee that Latham-Nicholls will provide ample solid support. Expect one of them to rise to the occasion in the finals.
Watch Out For
- Sharma-Shubman Vs Pace brigade of Boult-Southee-Jamieson: This might as well set the tone for this match. A Mumbai Indians mini-match between Boult & Rohit Sharma.
- Latham-Conway-Nicholls Vs R Ashwin: Ashwin has been India’s most successful bowler in this WTC cycle and has performed across all conditions (with both bat and ball). Conway is in the form of his life and the Kiwis have 2 other left-hand batters in the Top 5. Expect to see a lot of Ashwin.
- The slip catching. England’s dropped catches were on show in the last series and they have been one of the worst slip catching sides in the past two years. So I am glad Ind-NZ are playing this week. Both teams have legendary fast bowlers, so the ball will go to the slips more than usual. Rest assured, the catches will be taken. Rahane, Taylor, Rohit, Kohli, Latham should do the job.
India has revealed its XI ahead of time. Shardul Thakur, Washington Sundar, Mohammad Siraj, Hanuma Vihari, Axar Patel, Mayank Agarwal all played crucial roles in the lead up to the WTC Finals, but unfortunately did not make the final XI. This is also the first time that Jadeja-Ashwin-Sharma-Shami-Bumrah will play together. What a mouth-watering lineup.
- Rohit Sharma, 2. Shubman Gill, 3. Cheteshwar Pujara, 4. Virat Kohli*, 5. Ajinkya Rahane, 6. Rishabh Pant (WK), 7. Ravindra Jadeja, 8. Ravichandran Ashwin, 9. Ishant Sharma, 10. Mohammad Shami, 11. Jasprit Bumrah
Squad: Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Siraj
New Zealand’s lineup selects itself, but the crucial question is the #7-8 spot. Matt Henry, Neil Wagner, & Ajaz Patel performed admirably in the England series and Colin de Grandhomme has been out for a while, so will they go for a four-fast bowler strategy? Ajaz Patel should have done enough in the England series for a spin option in this Southampton pitch.
- Tom Latham, Devon Conway, 3. Kane Williamson*, 4. Ross Taylor, 5. Henry Nicholls, 6. BJ Watling (WK), 7. Colin de Grandhomme/Kyle Jamieson/Matt Henry, 8. Tim Southee, 9. Neil Wagner, 10. Trent Boult, 11. Ajaz Patel
Squad: Will Young, Tom Blundell (WK)
Mitchell Santner, Daryl Mitchell, Doug Bracewell, Jacob Duffy, and Rachin Ravindra failed to make the final cut.
I honestly cannot see a way past the weather. Both teams have excellent bowling options, so unless both teams suffer collapses twice, a result would be very hard to attain.
Would love if we get a full game, but for now, going with a Draw.
Verdict: Draw 0-0
If the game does happen, what am I excited for the most? Neil Wagner’s intensity, Colin de Grandhomme’s hairdo, Williamson-Kohli-Southee’s continuing journey from U-19 World Cup, Pujara-Pant combination, Ross Taylor’s wisdom, an emotional sunset to Watling’s wonderful career, and in general, just a hard-fought sporting final.
|MVP||Ajinkya Rahane||Henry Nicholls|
|Most Runs||Rohit Sharma||Tom Latham|
|Most Wickets||Ishant Sharma||Tim Southee|
|X-Factor||Ravichandran Ashwin||Ajaz Patel|
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World Test Championship Records
Are there are records that can be broken in the World Test Championship Final?
It is really interesting that even though NZ made it to the finals, there is nobody in the top 15 run-scorer. Combination of several players standing up and the fact that NZ did not play as many games. Kane Williamson is at 16th with 817 runs and Tom Latham is 25th with 680 runs.
India, on the other hand, have 5 batters in the Top 15:
- Rahane – 1095 (5th)
- Rohit Sharma – 1030 (6th)
- Kohli – 877 (11th)
- Agarwal – 857 (12th)
- Pujara – 818 (15th)
Ashwin is on #3 with 67 wickets and Southee is New Zealand’s best at #5 with 51 wickets.
- Kyle Jamieson – 36 (12th)
- Ishant Sharma – 36 (13th)
- Mohammad Shami – 36 (14th)
- Jasprit Bumrah – 34 (16th)
- Trent Boult – 34 (18th)
- Neil Wagner – 32 (20th)
Fielding and Dismissals
Both teams are pretty close on this list with BJ Watling – 43 dismissals (4th) and Rishabh Pant – 40 (5th).
In terms of catches, Rahane – 22 catches (4th) and Ross Taylor – 18 (5th) are at the top with Rohit Sharma – 16 (6th) and Virat Kohli – 16 (7th) close behind. New Zealand’s next best is Tom Latham – 14 (12th).
|Most Runs||Most Wickets||Most Catches||Most Dismissals|
|Marnus Labuschagne – 1675||Pat Cummins – 70||Joe Root – 34||Tim Paine – 65|
|Joe Root – 1660||Stuart Broad – 69||Steve Smith – 27||Jos Buttler – 50|
|Steve Smith – 1341||Ravichandran Ashwin – 67||Ben Stokes – 25||Quinton de Kock – 46|
|Ben Stokes – 1334||Nathan Lyon – 56||Ajinkya Rahane – 22||BJ Watling – 43|
|Ajinkya Rahane – 1095||Tim Southee – 51||Ross Taylor – 18||Rishabh Pant – 40|