World Test Championship (WTC) final is getting closer with every passing day. This affair gets more prominent than it is because it includes India as one of the finalists. Indian cricket team has the biggest fan following in the world and has been most dominant in all formats over the last few years.
However, we cannot overlook the performances of the New Zealand side over the last two years, who booked their place in the WTC final before India. This article will give you a recap of NZ's performances and how they qualified for the WTC final. Also, we'll discuss how Kiwis can take over the number 1 spot from India.
Journey to the WTC final
Kiwis had a tough start to their season in 2019 against Sri Lanka at Galle. They lost the first match by 6 wickets as their skipper, Kane Williamson, had some rare failures with the bat. Although they bounced back in the second Test with an exceptional batting display by Tom Latham(154) and BJ Watling(104). They levelled the series 1-1 and earned 60 points in the process.
NZ had a horrendous Australia tour in Dec-Jan(2019-20), where they lost the series by 3-0. They had no answers to the brilliant Marnus Labuschagne, who averaged above 90 in the series. As a result, they lost all 120 points available to them. Australian bowlers Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon all averaged below 20 in the series. This left Kiwis with 60 points after the two tours.
Kiwis quickly found themselves in a commanding position a month after their whitewash against Australia. They ended India's 7-game winning streak at Wellington. India produced a shambolic batting display during this tour which led to their whitewash and helped NZ earn the crucial 120 points.
By this time, the pandemic had impacted the cricket calendar, and the percentage of points earned came into play to determine the finalists.
After which, New Zealand was up against the West Indies at home in December 2020. Kane Williamson's impactful 251 helped his team gain momentum, which carried on until the second Test. Although Kane did not play the second Test, still his side emerged as winners with a 2-0 series win.
The momentum gained from the series against West Indies continued as they welcomed Pakistan at home. Williamson, who returned to the team, set up a 101-run win with his knock of 129. In the second Test, he scored a mammoth double-century(238) while Jamieson's outstanding display with the ball broke the back of Pakistan batters, ultimately leading to a whitewash.
After defeating Pakistan by 2-0 and Australia losing the Test series at home to India by 2-1, it helped NZ book a seat in the WTC final.
How can New Zealand take India's no.1 spot in ICC Test rankings?
India is sitting comfortably at the top with 121 ratings in the rankings. But Men in Blue won't be playing any Test match before their WTC final. However, New Zealand will be up against England in a 2-match Test Series in the UK starting 2nd June. This would allow Kiwis to surpass India in the ICC test Rankings.
Though it won't be easy to do so, as they will be up against one of the most ferocious bowling attacks in England's home conditions. If New Zealand somehow manage to find answers to Anderson, Broad and Archer, and they beat the Englishmen (even by 1-0), they'll take over the number 1 spot from India with ratings of 124. But if it ends as a 1-1 draw, the Men in Blue(121) will keep their number 1 position intact as NZ will stay at 119 points.