New Zealand down-played the choker label, outfoxing India in English conditions and overcame continuous weather interruptions to make history in Southampton by winning the inaugural World Test Championship.
New Zealand made the most of their early arrival in England leaving the hosts, as well as the Virat Kohli-led side, completely clueless in red-ball cricket. Rainfall and bad light for a couple of days made it seem like the game was heading towards a disappointing draw, however, the reserve day (Day 6) saved a thrilling finale for Test cricket fans. A great stalwart for the Blackcaps, Ross Taylor hit the winning shot for four off Mohammad Shami, redeeming for narrowly missing out on the ODI World Cup trophy in both 2015 and 2019 editions.
Domino effect falters India’s hopes
In the first innings, India’s openers, Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill put up a 62-run opening stand, which marked India’s first 60+ opening partnership in England in the last 10 years.
India captain, Virat Kohli chipped in with an important 44, followed by vice-captain, Ajinkya Rahane’s 49. To everyone’s surprise, they would be the highest scores from the World No. 1 Test side in the first inning. India were bungled out for 217, but managed to stay in the contest after dismantling New Zealand’s first inning for 249.
The 32-run lead looked negotiable yet no one foresaw the Kohli-led side returning to the pavilion so soon. One after another, wickets kept tumbling and India succumbed to the pressure of the big game, registering only 170 runs in their second inning, setting up a meager 139-run chase for the talented Blackcaps side.
Williamson stands tall
Kane Williamson showed nerves of steel, performing well in both innings. His knock of an unbeaten 52, guaranteed the win for the Blackcaps who may have been feeling the pressure after the early loss of both openers.
The consistency of Ross Taylor (47*) made the run chase steady for the skipper, who achieved a befitting end to his form slump on English soil.
The difference in pace cartels
India never looked in complete control of the game as their bowling unit struggled to cash-in on the late swing. Despite having one of the best batting line-ups in world cricket, they fell prey to the Four Horsemen of Pace – Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner.
Jamieson bagged his fifth five-wicket haul in only his eighth Test to be named, the Player of the Match. His scintillating seven-for took the game away from India.
While New Zealand’s pace cartel were inch-perfect with timely swing and length, the Indian quicks simply failed to have the same impact. Mohammad Shami was the sole exception who stood head and shoulders above his Indian teammates, with four scalps in the first inning.
BJ Watling bows out on a high note
The World Test Championship Mace is the best farewell gift that any Test cricketer would want to embrace on their way out before retiring. Playing in his last international game for New Zealand, BJ Watling bowed out a champion amidst applause from his teammates.
Watling leaves Test Cricket with the most individual Test runs, and Test dismissals as a New Zealand keeper.
Was a one-off Test a good option?
At the conclusion of the match, Virat Kohli did not seem pleased with the idea that a one-off game decides the World Test Championship winner. The Indian skipper suggested that playing a three-Test series to determine the winner would have been a better option.
In hindsight and considering the match disruptions, it seems like a reasonable proposition for the ICC to consider in future, to hold three action-packed Tests to decide who takes home the trophy.
Congratulations New Zealand Blackcaps.
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