Brief scores: New Zealand: 249 (Devon Conway 54, Kane Williamson 49, Tom Latham 30; Mohamad Shami 4/76) and 140/2 (Kane Williamson 52*, Ross Taylor 47*; Ravi Ashwin 2/17) beat India: 217 (Ajinkya Rahane 49, Virat Kohli 44; Kyle Jamieson 5/31) and 170 (Rishabh Pant 41, Rohit Sharma 30; Tim Southee 4/48) by 8 wickets
‘Nice guys also finish first’! Kiwi captain Kane Williamson and seasoned campaigners, Ross Taylor and Tim Southee, make sure that their team takes all the right steps on the final day of the World Test Championship at Southampton to walk away as the inaugural Test cricket world champions.
Day 6, or the reserve day, of the WTC Final at the Aegas Bowl in Southampton began with both contesting teams having their work cut out. For India, they had to bat as long as possible to avoid any sniff of victory to the Kiwis, while for Williamson’s men, they had to bowl out India for as cheaply as possible and then hope to chase the target, knowing that weather could always play the spoilsport in England.
Let us take a look at the talking points of the final day’s play
Same old story for Indian batters
A familiar batting collapse for India on Day 6 made the task for New Zealand batters. The collapse came in two bursts, the first in the morning session when Kyle Jamieson ran through captain Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara in a space of 12 balls, with both batsmen edging behind after being set up with full and straight deliveries.
India were so pegged back that at one point of time, pacer Tim Southee even had a silly mid-on and a square leg for Pujara.
No sooner had India been rocked with the wickets of two of its middle order batsmen, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, too, perished. It was Trent Boult, who was held back in favour of Jamieson, who had Rahane strangled down the leg-side. Three of India’s main batting stays had perished in the first session of the day. Maybe it was a sign of things to come.
Pant does what Pant does best
Wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant walked out to the middle after the wicket of Pujara and started to execute what he is known for. Soon joined by all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja in the middle, Pant added 33 runs for the fifth wicket. He scored 41 runs off 88 deliveries in smash-or-go home innings and turned out to be India’s highest scorer in the second innings. Point to be noted here is that this was the first time since 2018 that no Indian batsman could score 50 runs in both innings of a test match.
New Zealand pacers do not let India’s tail wag
Pant’s attack against Trent Boult, however, proved terminal as Henry Nicholls managed to take a stunner behind point. Moments before, Jadeja, too, had fallen to Neil Wagner, the all-season man for Kiwis who switched his mode of attack from full and over-the-wicket in the morning session to short and round-the-wicket after lunch.
As usual, India’s last three wickets added only 14 runs as Tim Southee finished the innings with four wickets to his name, while Boult picked up three, dismissing India for a paltry 170, and with a second innings lead of just 138.
Kiwi start slow but steady
Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah’s disciplined bowling, coupled with the odd in-swingers from Mohammed Shami troubled Kiwi openers Tom Latham and Devon Conway right from the outset. They duo, however, managed to see out the session before lunch, much to the dismay of Indian fans.
Post lunch, with the Kiwi target getting closer with every run, Latham tried breaking fee. But Ravi Ashwin had other plans. The Indian spinner dismissed Latham with Pant being sharp with his reflexes, stumping the Kiwi. Ashwin then got the in-form Devon Conway, courtesy an in-drifter.
Veterans show their might
Post the two wickets that India managed, what transpired would go down as the most memorable moment in New Zealand cricket history. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor punished the Indian bowlers with absolute authority and tracked down 139 runs to redeem themselves from the horror of the 2019 World Cup final and were crowned champions of the inaugural edition of the World Test Championship.
What next for Kohli?
For captain Virat Kohli, this is the third failure in big ICC events after the 2017 Champions Trophy and the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Kohli might have one more shot to redeem himself this year, with the T20 World Cup slated for later this year and failing to win that could warrant some changes in the team hierarchy.
Ex-captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is worshipped because of three ICC trophies and it was ironical that India’s abject surrender happened on the same date on which the revered former skipper won the Champions Trophy in the same country eight summers back.
Cracks in the famed Indian middle-order?
Pujara’s abilities of grinding out bowlers have reached mythical proportions and he wasn’t looking to score in the second innings too. The pressure built and Jamieson fired one in with the angle. Pujara wanted to remove his bat but it seemed the ball tailed him and Taylor got a regulation catch.
Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane (15 off 40 balls) also didn’t last long and as it has happened with India often, their tail didn’t wag save for Mohammed Shami (13), who slashed three boundaries before Williamson cleverly deployed a “fly third-man” (neither short third-man nor the traditional third man) for the shot, which promptly landed in the fielder’s palms.
It was a day when everything went haywire for India and poor captaincy made matters worse.