After two years of cricket and 58 Test matches, the much awaited World Test Championship Final is finally here.
During the WTC, India have been a dominant force, both at home & abroad, as was evident with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. New Zealand have been miles ahead at home but not much to show in the away leg. So, who will it be?
Who, What, When, Where?
- India Vs New Zealand
- World Test Championship (WTC) Final
- June 18th-22nd
- The Rose Bowl, Southampton
A reserve day is available in case all the overs are not recovered during the five days. If there is a tie or a draw, the World Test Championship trophy will be shared.
New Zealand have already been in England for a 2-Test series, which has helped them acclimatize to the conditions and rest/rotate some of their players. India have not had much practice but have been in England to serve quarantine time.
Also Read: How Can the WTC Improve?, Relegation-Promotion in the WTC
How Will the Pitch Play?
A good pitch can make an immense difference in the viewing of a Test match.
The first Test between England & New Zealand ended in a boring draw. It was an atypical England pitch—slightly flat and not much swing on offer either. Even a player of Jimmy Anderson’s caliber failed to generate much out of it.
The only reason there was any hope of a result was due to New Zealand’s bold declaration early on day 5. The second Test ongoing right now, is not much different either.
I really hope a sporting pitch, fitting of a final, is provided by the ICC.
Will The Teams Go For the Jugular?
New Zealand in the final of a world trophy in England.
It will be interesting how teams go about since trophy could be shared, unlike the 2019 Cricket World Cup Final.
Imagine this scenario—Day 5 last session, 100 runs needed with 4 wickets to go in 20 overs – will the chasing team go for it while risking a loss? Will the bowling team keep an aggressive field or keep the field back to reduce the run rate?
If the match does go late into Day 5, it could be an enthralling event, but just 1-match final is not ideal. Ravi Shastri provided an apt solution—best of 3-match final series will be fitting for a tournament that takes more than two years.
Siraj, Shami, and Sharma – Who Will Play?
Now for the interesting part—the selection policies. Both teams boast envious bench strengths. India even won in Australia with a so-called second string team.
Hanuma Vihari, Mayank Agarwal, Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel all have played starring role during the course of the WTC campaign, but will anyone even get into the XI during the final?
Mohammad Siraj debuted in the 2nd Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and rumors are he might get a wildcard entry into the XI due to his impressive performances. With Bumrah & Ashwin most likely to play, Siraj, Shami, Sharma, and Umesh will fight it out for the remaining two spots.
New Zealand are spoiled for choices as well.
Devon Conway debuted with a magnificent 200 at Lord’s, youngster Will Young is in the form of his life, and two out of the all-rounders Colin de Grandhomme-Daryl Mitchell-Mitchell Santner should play. The selection on the bowling front is even trickier. Southee-Boult-Wagner-Jamieson select themselves, but Matt Henry had a great outing in the 2nd Test vs England, and they still have Doug Bracewell, Jacob Duffy, & spinner Ajaz Patel in the sidelines.
Both teams have talent, but the team that chooses in-form players and makes better decisions will prevail.
An End of an Era?
BJ Watling announced his retirement prior to the series, and although he played the first Test against England, he was out of the 2nd Test due to a sore back. Hopefully he recovers back in time for his final appearance and has one final gritty knock in him.
We have seen World Cups being a swansong for plenty of players, and the World Test Championship might well be the equivalent for Test specialists.
Both New Zealand & India have been around the ICC trophies over the past decade without actually winning much. While BJ Watling is the only one to formally announce his retirement, Neil Wagner (35), Ross Taylor (37), Ishant Sharma (32), Tim Southee (32), and Ravichandran Ashwin (34) might only have a final shot at a major world trophy.
Anyway, I do not know about you, but I cannot wait for this match to get started. Five days of a good battle between bat & ball by the two of the best sides in the world.
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Copyright @Nitesh Mathur, aka Nit-X, Broken Cricket Dreams, firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Courtesy: Rdevany at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons