The eagerly awaited final of the inaugural edition of the World Test Championship is all set to begin on Friday at the Rose Bowl in Southampton. The world’s two top-ranked teams – Virat Kohli’s India and Kane Williamson’s New Zealand – will go head-to-head as both teams look for a place in the history books by claiming the first major international title of the decade.
As we look forward to the inaugural World Test Championship Final and the impact it will have on the longest format of the game, here are our expectations from the India vs New Zealand World Test Championship Final:
VIRAT KOHLI vs KANE WILLIAMSON
There is no doubt that the rise of India and New Zealand in Test cricket has been mainly due to the leadership and batting prowess of the two captains – Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson, respectively. Both cricketers are widely revered among fans, but both boast contrasting styles. Virat Kohli has an active and aggressive persona on the field, inspiring and pumping up his team. Kane Williamson on the other hand has adopted Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s cool and calm demeanour on the field, earning him the nickname of new Captain Cool.
Both players will not only face off as captains but also on the pitch, where their batting performance will determine the fortunes of the team. Williamson is the top-ranked batsman in Test cricket, whose 639 runs in 2020 at an average of 159.75 propelled his team to the finals. Virat Kohli has fallen to the fifth spot in Test rankings, but the world’s most famous cricketer had a lean season and is sure to return to form for the final.
BATTLE OF THE PACERS
India’s rise to prominence as a world-beating team, especially in overseas conditions, has been mainly due to the efforts of the pace quartet. Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah can create fear in the minds of the opponent, taking the notion of spin-friendly Indians for a toss. The combined bowling average of the Indian pace unit since 2018 is 22.8 and strike rate 45.6 – the best in the world.
But it is not going to be an easy road for Indian batsmen either, as they face one of the most brilliant and in-form pace trios in the world. Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Trent Boult are some of the most experienced players in the Kiwis unit, and along with Kylie Jamieson, form a unit that can choke batsmen. While the overall numbers are in favour of the Indian pacers, the Kiwi pace unit has more experience in England, including recent matches, and a better record with the Duke balls.
WILL LACK OF PRACTICE HAMPER INDIA
The Kiwis enter the Test Championship final on the back of a 1-0 series victory over England, high in spirits and experience on English grounds. The Indian squad, meanwhile, has been under stringent quarantine conditions for most of the past month and had to contend with practising among their own ranks. While the Indian players are more than competent to play in any format of the game at any time, the last Test match played by India was back in January, and the five-month gap might give the Kiwis a slight but crucial advantage.
WILL INDIA FLOURISH IN ENGLISH CONDITIONS
The last Test outing for India in England was back in 2018 when Joe Root’s squad thumped India 4-1 in a five-match Test series. While India have been able to master Australian and South African conditions, mastering the English pitches with Duke balls has been more of a challenge. Barring Virat Kohli’s extraordinary feats in the series, the rest of the Indian squad, many of whom are part of the WTC squad have failed to perform. If India are to have a chance to win the Test championship, they have to overcome not just New Zealand, but their fear of the English conditions.
WHO WILL BE THE CHAMPIONS
The winner of the World Test Championship will also be crowned the top rank in Test rankings, a feat which will earn a place for the teams in history books. But despite the high stakes, both teams are very evenly matched, possessing no weaknesses to speak of. We expect the WTC final to end in a draw and for both the teams to jointly lift the title.
India Predicted XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli(c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant(wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma
New Zealand Predicted XI: Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Colin De Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult
When: Friday, June 18, 2021. 3:30 PM IST
Where: Rose Bowl, Southampton
Where to Watch: The match will be telecast on Star Sports 1 HD and Hotstar.
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