As the curtain-raisers to the WTC final is just a few days away at the Rose Bowl, Southampton, this Sportz O’ Clock article will give you a preview about how the teams are shaping up before the inaugural final of the World Test Championship, an initiative by ICC to re-create the lost glory of one of the most beautiful formats of the game.
Massacre. This is the word that aptly describes the England v India test series where Kohli and his men destroyed Joe Root and the Brits with a thumping 3-1 series win with scintillating performances from the spinning duo of Axar Patel and R. Ashwin. The batting power was amazingly displayed by Rohit Sharma who scored 345 runs and by Rishabh Pant who scored 270 runs and kept his good work intact behind the stumps as well.
Apart from the England test series, India has performed quite well in the WTC Championship right from the start and has just lost one series. Team India has overpowered West Indies (2-0), South Africa (3-0), Bangladesh (2-0), the historic Aussie ‘Down – Under’ (2-1), but has only succumbed to the other finalist, New Zealand.
The Indian squad has all the known faces and power-packed performers. Leading with Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Mayank Aggarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Hanuman Vihari, and Ajinkya Rahane in the batting department followed by the all-rounders in Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, R. Ashwin. The bowling segment features Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, and Md. Shami. Although, Bhuvi’s absence from the squad has raised quite some eyebrows, but the lack of first-class cricket experience in recent times was stated as the reason by BCCI for his omission from the squad.
New Zealand on the other hand has quite a competitive squad, but now with Kane Williamson injured with an elbow injury which had also kept him sidelined in the starting phase of the IPL, Tom Latham might take charge along with Colin de grandhomme, Ross Taylor, Rachin Ravindra, and the bowling department will be spearheaded by Neil Wagner – ranked 3rd in ICC Test bowling ranking, Tim Southee – ranked 6th in the ICC Test bowling ranking and Trent Boult – Ranked World No 1 in ICC ODI rankings.
In the first test against England, the Kiwis have shown that they are more than ready for the final. Even though this series is not even a part of the WTC, Kiwi’s didn’t let their guards down and showed their hunger in the first test with a brilliant combined performance from both the batsman and bowlers.
New Zealand’s journey in the test championship began with a rocky start, as they drew the test series against Sri Lanka (1-1), lost to Australia (3-0) which could have completely dampened their spirits but they fought back, and fought back real hard by winning against India (2-0), followed by West Indies (2-0) and then Pakistan (2-0).
Who Will Win?
We all know Cricket is a game of uncertainties, but cricket lovers never fail to speculate.
The Rose Bowl in Southampton has mostly been seen as a dry surface with little or low grass. England and New Zealand have quite similar pitches which can give the Kiwi’s fearsome bowling attack a hospitable environment.
Michael Vaughan has already selected New Zealand as the winner for the final as he thinks, the weather, pitch conditions are very similar in both countries and also the use of duke ball. Apart from that, he believes, New Zealand will have better preparations as they play England before, but we all know how his predictions turn out.
Although India has a very balanced squad, the last two encounters have not gone our way. From the heart-wrenching defeat at the World Cup semi-final to the 2-0 test defeat, India might be on the back-foot against the Kiwis, but India, as a team, is known to do the unthinkable.
The final against New Zealand will be the deal-breaker and it would need not only an on-field master class from every player but also a tactical plan to beat their pacy swing attack as well as humble their in-form top order.