One out of India or New Zealand will be crowned winners of the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) when the two sides face off against each other in the final of the tournament beginning on Friday in Southampton. As per ICC’s latest announcement, if the match is drawn, both the sides will share the trophy and prize money.
The World Test Championship began on August 1, 2019, with nine of the 12 Test playing countries participating in the two-year long tournament. India and New Zealand topped the points table with maximum points, thus contesting the final.
Both the teams are coming into the contest on the back of a series win against England. But New Zealand will enjoy an upper hand as they beat England less than a week before the World Test Championship final, thus enjoyed good match practice. India, on the other hand, last played Test cricket in February-March.
The ICC World Test Championship final was to be held at Lord’s Cricket Ground, but was moved to Southampton due to better bio-bubble facilities at the Ageas Bowl.
While Virat Kohli has never led India to an ICC trophy, Kane Williamson, after losing the 2019 World Cup final dramatically, will be eager to win an ICC silverware this time around.
Ahead of the much anticipated clash, here we list the top five players from both the teams to watch out for.
Tim Southee – bowler, New Zealand
Leader of New Zealand’s strong pace attack, Tim Southee has been in a remarkable form throughout the World Test Championship the last two years. The 32-year-old right-arm quick grabbed 51 wickets from 10 games at an average of 20.66, including three five wicket hauls.
Southee carried the form into the two-match Test series against England, where he picked up seven wickets including a spell of 6/43 in the first Test, before being rested for the second game.
While he is New Zealand’s third highest wicket taker in Tests, it is also important to note that Southee is capable of clearing the fence too when needed. All in all, the fast bowler has 309 wickets from 78 Test matches at an average of 28.31. He has also contributed 1698 runs with the bat.
In Southampton, where the ball will be seen swinging prodigiously, Southee will be New Zealand’s trump card. The contest between him and Virat Kohli would be interesting to watch, with the pacer having dismissed the Indian skipper 10 times in Tests – the most by any bowler.
Virat Kohli – captain and batsman, India
The Indian captain has scored 877 runs in 22 innings in the World Test Championship, which, as per the lofty standards he has set for himself, are not quite great. Kohli, who last scored a century in November 2019, will be looking to end his century drought when it matters the most. As aforementioned, seeing off Southee’s spells will not be an easy job for the batsman, given their previous battles.
India are yet to win an ICC trophy under Kohli’s captaincy, and the World Test Championship title would be his best bet to win one.
The 32-year-old is one of the finest batsmen in the world, in all three formats of the game. In 153 Test innings, Kohli has piled up 7490 runs at an average of 52.37, including 27 centuries and 25 fifties. With these majestic numbers behind him, Kohli is still India’s biggest hope in the final.
Kane Williamson – Captain and batsman, New Zealand
The New Zealand skipper and the current world no. 1 batsman in Tests, Kane Williamson suffered an injury to his elbow in the first Test against England and was thus ruled out of the second Test. Ahead of the final, the injury caused massive scare to the Kiwis, but their head coach Gary Stead has confirmed that the batsman is fit to play the Southampton game.
For the Kiwis, Williamson has scored the most number of runs in the World Test Championship – 817 runs from 14 innings at an average of 58.35, including three centuries. His ability to play spin comfortably, and his remarkably calm demeanour in pressure situations makes him a top-notch player. Overall, Williamson has 7129 runs from 146 Test innings, including 24 centuries
Jasprit Bumrah – bowler, India
One of the best bowlers in the world, Jasprit Bumrah has not been at his best in the last few Tests that he has played. Injuries have kept him out of the XI, which has dented his confidence. In the home series against England, Bumrah picked up four wickets from three innings, which is much below his capabilities.
But Bumrah has done well for India in England in the past, which includes a 5-85 in 2018 which helped India win by 203 runs. In South Africa, England, New Zealand, and Australia, Bumrah has scalped 66 wickets at 24.03, of which 14 wickets were taken in England. In the World Test Championship, the right-arm bowler has scalped 34 wickets from nine matches, including two fifers.
Despite a dip in form, Bumrah, with his peculiar release point and natural pace, will be very crucial to India’s bowling department. He has 83 wickets from 37 Test innings at an average of 22.10.
Rohit Sharma – batsman, India
From being called a white-ball specialist to being the second highest run scorer for India in the World Test Championship, Rohit Sharma has come a long way. With 1030 runs in 17 innings, including four centuries and two fifties, the opener is only behind Ajinkya Rahane on the list of highest run scorers for India in the tournament.
Talking about 2021, the right-handed batsman is the second highest run-getter for India in Tests this year. Of the six Tests he has featured in this year, two of which were against Australia and four against England – the opener has 341 runs. His knock of 161 runs in the second Test against England in Chennai helped India win the game by 317 runs.
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