The ICC World Test Championship is expected to be a crackerjack of a contest. After two years of gruelling action, the two teams who ended on top of the points table, India and New Zealand, fight it out for the ultimate crown of test cricket at Southampton from June 18. Ravi Shastri has described the contest as the biggest test match to date.
The magnitude of such a match means that there will be a lot of buildup around it, and it also means that the players have a lot to look forward to in this mega event. There will be battles between the players that can decide the match's fate and the World Test champions.
The two teams have met each other twice in the last 4 years, and the home side has convincingly won the series on both occasions. Hence, the neutral venue of the final adds to the excitement ahead of the Ultimate Test.
New Zealand whitewashed India in the 2-match series at the start of the 2020 edition as they avenged their defeat to India. The Indian team won all the matches in the 3-match series when the Virat Kohli-led side hosted the Kiwis in 2016. But a lot has changed since most Indian players are experienced in the English conditions' challenges. However, the Williamson-led side will have many advantages as the conditions are similar to those back home.
The player battles at various stages of the game can change the complexion of the game. For instance, Rishabh Pant’s pummeled runs when he faced veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon as the momentum swung in India’s favour in the Gabba Test of the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
The Bharat Army looks at the important battles ahead of the WTC Final that could play a pivotal role in changing the ebbs and flow of the game and defining the outcome, don't miss this:
5. Cheteshwar Pujara vs Tim Southee
Pujara has been a solid part of the Indian team for close to a decade now. His performance in the final will be crucial, and hence, the Kiwis will have their plans in place for the No. 3 batters. Tim Southee has troubled the Saurashtra batter throughout his career as he has dismissed him thrice, and Puji averages just 14.33 against the Kiwi pacer.
The pacer’s strength to swing the ball in both ways caused the English batters a lot of trouble in the 1st test of the series. He might well be a big threat to Pujara in the WTC Final.
4. Ishant Sharma vs Tom Latham
The Lanky pacer has grown in stature over the last few years and has been the spearhead of India’s bowling line-up over the past 6 years alongside Jasprit Bumrah. Injuries marred the pacer’s 2020 series against the Kiwis in their own backyard, but he picked a 5-wicket-haul at Wellington. He will be itching to put up a similar performance in the Final.
The Kiwi opener faces an uphill task to tackle the Ishant’s seaming deliveries in tough conditions. Ishant has a historical advantage over the southpaw as he has conceded just 9 runs and has dismissed him twice. He also dismissed Latham during the course of his 5-68 in New Zealand in 2020. However, Bumrah got the better of him in both the innings of the Christchurch Test, dismissing him for a single-digit score in both innings.
In just 19 test matches, Bumrah has established his place as the leader of the Indian bowling attack, and he will be one of the challenges for the Kiwis at the Hamshire Bowl, Southampton.
3. Ross Taylor vs Ishant Sharma
A battle that involves the 100 test veteran Ishant Sharma from India is the one against Ross Taylor. The 38-year old batter is at the fag-end of his career, and the WTC Final might well be his final hurray.
Sharma has dismissed him 4 times over his celebrated career. Although, 3 out of the 4 dismissals have come before 2014, and only 1 has come in recent times in 2020. But Taylor tends to struggle against the incoming delivery, and hence, Ishant will be a much bigger threat for the Kiwi. The pacer is a great exponent of the inswinging delivery and can use it against the New Zealand batter.
2. Kane Williamson vs Ravindra Jadeja
Ravindra Jadeja has been one of the best assets in the Indian team in the past couple of years. Kane Williamson has played a similar role for the Kiwis, and hence, the left-arm spinner’s battle against the opposition will be a crucial part of the Final.
Despite Jadeja’s dominance over the right-handed batters in recent times, he has failed to get the better of Williamson. The Kiwi has scored 55 runs against the Indian spinner and hasn’t been dismissed even once. Maybe, the WTC final will be an occasion for the Indian spinner to get the better of the captain for the first time.
1. Kane Williamson vs Jasprit Bumrah
When two of the best teams in the world lock horns against each other, the focus will also be on the best batters and the best bowlers from each side. Two of the marquee players in test cricket or world cricket at the moment, Kane Williamson and Jasprit Bumrah, will be up against each other in what promises to be the biggest blockbuster of the match.
Indian fans will be pleased with the pacer’s record against the Kiwi captain. The pacer has dismissed him twice in the 2020 series.