ICC World Test Championship Final 2021.
New Zealand VS India Played at Hampshire Bowl, Southampton, June 18-23, 2021
Brief Scorecard at Stumps of Day Five
India 1st Innings 217 All Out in 92.1 Overs (Ajinka Rahane 49, Virat Kohli 44, Rohit Sharma 34, Shuvman Gill 28, Ravichandra Ashwin 22, Ravindra Jadeja 15, Kyle Jamieson 5/ 31, Neil Wagner 2/40, Trent Boult 2/ 47)
India 2nd Innings 64/2 (Rohit Sharma 30, Cheteswar Pujara 12*, Tim Southee 2/ 17)
New Zealand 1st Innings 249 All Out in 99.2 Overs (Devon Conway 54, Kane Williamson 49, Tim Southee 30, Kyle Jamieson 21, Mohammad Sami 4/ 76, Ishant Sharma 3/48, Ravichndra Ashwin 2/ 28, Ravindra Jadeja 1/15)
The much-hyped final of the first ever ICC World Test Championship enters day six (the rest day) especially provided for in anticipation of rain interruption is now delicately poised. Keeping to its tradition of rain remaining integral part of English cricket almost half of the five days played today was digested by rain and bad light. New Zealand appearing with better balanced pace attack on suing favoring condition has its nose a bit ahead gaining a useful 32 runs first innings lead (scored 249 all out replying to India’s 217) and reducing India to 64/2 in the second innings. It can be a dramatic culmination if sun shines on the entire 6th day and Black Caps pacers can make early inroads. But it also seems highly unlikely that top quality Indian batting with Vintage Kohli and New Indian Wall Cheteswar Pujara still there will give up without fight. A drawn match and a shared honor appear to be the logical conclusion. But cricket is a funny game. Who knows what happens when.
The concept of organizing Test Championship was heralded by the ardent worshipers of the crickets original and aristocratic lovers. It has served tonic to the dwindling popularity of test cricket in the wake of disco versions ODI, T20 and even T10 and 100 balls cricket. But COVID avalanche acted as a serious impediment. Nevertheless, it reached the final stage. Judging from the fate of the match as it is now few observed why ICC had to choose England as the venue of the final?
We should note that it was originally scheduled for Lords. the traditional Head Quarter of Cricket. But keeping in mind of the excellent safe facilities of bio bubble at Rose Bowl in Southampton the venue was shifted. COVID influenced to a great extend in deterring the finalists. But one must also appreciate that the two better playing teams at the moment New Zealand and India deservedly reached the final. Australia, England or South Africa cannot say they were hard done. Finally, it is very exceptional that so much rain so massively impacted the match at English summer.
New Zealand went for 5-pronged pace attack pruning lone spinner option and India appeared with three pacers and two quality spin allrounders.
After the washed-out day one, toss win was a great factor for New Zealand. Opting to field on a green top wicket, Kiwi pacers exploiting the heavy overcast swinging condition made Indian batting huffing and puffing all the way in reaching 217 in the first innings. The rookie tall Kyle Jamieson (5/31) constantly teased and tormented Indian batsmen. Wegnar (2/40) and Boult (2/47) were also relentless. Throughout Indian innings Kiwi pacers were relentless in accurate length on the top off stump and swinging. We are not sure when last world cricket has seen flamboyant Kohli battling for his 132 balls 44, Pujara batted for 54 balls for 8 runs. However, Rahane (49), Rohit (34) and Young Gill (28) contributed to save India from total disaster.
Indian pacers also bowled well especially Mohammad Sami. But Kiwis batsmen especially new sensation Devon Conway batted superbly for yet another (54) half century. Day three concluded early for bad light with New Zealand comfortably placed at 101/2. Two Champion batsmen Kane Willamson and Ross Taylor were at the wicket.
Day four was again completely washed out. Indian pacers changed length when match resumed on day five with sun appearing for the first time. Sami, Ishant bowled exceptionally well and Indian fielding / catching peaked. Williamson (49) applied and his tenacity and skill (playing the ball late) paved the way for Kiwis taking the useful lead by 32 runs. Off course a quick fire 21 by Jamieson again and excellent tail wagging 30 from Southee also contributed. Sami (4/76), Ishant (3/48) restricted Kiwis to 249 all out. Ashwin taking 2/28 and Jadeja 1/15 also justified their inclusion. Bumrah however could not impact.
India batting second time has to endure Kiwi Champion Tim Southee swinging new duke ball prodigiously. He out smarted Gill (8) and Rohit (34) as India finished day 5 at 64/2 only 32 ahead.
The match on the reserve day appears delicately poised although the odds heavily favor a draw and teams sharing honors. Neither team deserves to loos such an intriguing battle. It will all depend how Kohli, Pujara and Rahane bat? How wicket behave and whether sun shines throughout the day?
BDST: 1249 HRS, JUNE 23, 2021