Date: June 18-22, 2021
Time: 3:00 PM (IST)
Venue: Ageas Bowl, Southampton
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373 km, this is the distance between Ageas Bowl, Southampton - the venue of World Test Championship final - and Old Trafford Cricket Ground, Manchester - one of the venues of 2019 World Cup semifinals. A common traveler will say it hardly takes a ride of 5-6 hours to move from one place to the other, but ask Team India once and they will let you know how and why the mere distance means life to them.
It has been more than 700 days to the loss India suffered at the hands of the Kiwis in the semifinal of 2019 World Cup at Old Trafford. The number of days might sound too much but the wounds of the loss still trouble every Indian fan and certainly the players as well. "Had there not been the rain", "had India not taken New Zealand lightly", "had there not been Trent Boult", "had Dhoni not been run out", there were so many ifs in the story that the fans of Indian cricket still imagine situations accordingly even years after the damage is done. To add salt to the injury, New Zealand outplayed India 2-0 in home Test series in the WTC cycle.
As everyday comes with new opportunities and new challenges, India are yet again pitted against New Zealand, the number one Test side, in the Test finale starting June 18 at the Ageas Bowl. While Virat Kohli and company are coming into the game with just some practice sessions, New Zealand, on the other hand, are arriving to the grand finale on the back of a 1-0 Test series win over England. The experts of the game have already predicted the winner and with no surprise their prophecy had to differ as there is hardly anything that sets the two teams apart.
Head to Head (Last 5 matches):
New Zealand: 2
In the batting line-up, the regular opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill will start the proceedings for India and likely the batting positions of other players remain constant. Rishabh Pant plays as the wicketkeeper, while Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have made it to the final XI as all-rounders. Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami were the clear picks in the final XI, however, the biggest challenge for the selectors was to choose the third pacer among Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj and Umesh Yadav, wherein they relied on the experience and consistency of Ishant. Meanwhile, there are no injury issues in the truncated 15-member squad of Team India.
On the contrary, injury concerns are there in the Black Caps' camp. Kane Williamson had endured an elbow injury during first Test of the recently concluded two-match series against England and missed the following game, while BJ Watling had also decided to skip the second Test against the Three Lions due to a sore back. According to head coach Gary Stead, skipper Williamson and wicketkeeper Watling are expected to be fit for the WTC finale.
Talking about the team combination, the emergence of Devon Conway has definitely given a boost to New Zealand's batting order at the top. Tom Latham is likely to join him to open the innings for the Kiwis. However, selecting the pacers, apart from Trent Boult and Tim Southee, will give the selection panel some real headache. Ajaz Patel will make a cut into the playing XI, considering the dry nature of the pitch that is expected to assist spinner lately in the game.
At times stats tell the story while sometimes they are the people experiencing a situation who give a vivid example of the beauty of something. However, in case of Kohli, both are omnipresent. Stats say that Kohli has scored 7490 runs across 91 Tests at an average of 52.37, which is his lowest across formats, while Kohli's dominating game is known to all.
7129 Test runs from 84 games, aided by 24 hundreds that too with sheer class, more than a name Kane Williamson is a character. Be it his game or captaincy, everything seems as smooth as a steadily flowing river. His batting performance is going to be a big deciding factor in the game.
The right-arm pacer was in devastating form in the first game against England, picking a 6-fer in the first innings only. Southee enjoys a sensational Test record of 309 wickets to his name from 78 games. He was also the highest wicket-taker (14) in the two-match series against India, which was the last face-off between the sides in the longest format.
A left-arm pacer with a good line and length has always been a nightmare for the Indian batsmen. In addition, Trent Boult in himself is one of the finest pacers in the international arena. He had returned figures of 4/85 and 2/34 in the recently concluded second Test against England and that better speaks of the form he is in.
Probable Playing XI
India (Team Announced):
Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma
Devon Conway, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Ajaz Patel
Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha, Umesh Yadav
Kane Williamson (c), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling (wk), Will Young