India will play New Zealand in World Test Championship or WTC final to be held at Southampton in the United Kingdom from June 18.
Kane Williamson and his men have been on a roll, posting six straight wins, and winning three straight Test series 2-0 each. The run started when the Kiwis defeated India at home 2-0 in 2019-20. But India is currently the top-ranked Test team in the world. They would eye revenge when they play the Kiwis in the final.
So, here is how the two teams fare against each other in Tests.
India vs NZ head to head ahead of WTC final
|583/7d||Highest total||680/8 decl|
|Vinoo Mankad’s 231||Highest individual score||Brendon McCullum’s 302|
|S Venkataraghavan’s 8/72||Best bowling figures||Richard Hadlee’s 7/23|
Trivia/fun facts ahead of WTC final
When Virat Kohli leads his team into the WTC final, he will become the first player to feature in all ICC event finals – Under-19 World Cup, 50-overs World Cup, World T20, and the Champions Trophy.
Williamson and Kohli will face each other in ICC tournament knockouts as captain for the third time. They were captains of their sides when India and NZ faced each other in the 2008 Under-19 World Cup semi-final. They were captains again when India met the Kiwis in the 2019 World Cup semi-final.
Williamson will be playing a Test innings on the back of three tons in his last 4 Test innings. It includes two double tons. In comparison, Kohli is yet to hit a ton since November 2019. He has gone 12 Test innings without a ton – a huge drop in form as per Kohli’s high standards.
Southampton Pitch Report and whom it favours
The Ageas Bowl at Southampton is known as a bowler-friendly pitch, with just two scores of 500 and more in 6 Tests. And both these scores were made by the home team, England.
India has lost both their Tests at this ground to England. NZ is yet to play here. Here are the stats of this ground.
|Results||3 won, 3 drawn|
|Winners||England (2), WI (1)|
|Highest total||England’s 583/8d vs Pak|
|Lowest total||England’s 110/4d vs Pak|
|Highest Individual Score||Eng’s Zak Crawley’s 267 vs Pak|
|Best bowling figures||WI’s Jason Holder’s 6/42 vs Eng|
Each team’s chances in the WTC final
India, current rank: No 1, form guide: WWWLW
Team India is coming off a 2-1 series win in Australia, and a 3-1 series win against England at home. They have done well in overseas Test series under Virat Kohli and would start as favourites against the underdogs Kiwis, whose recent three straight Test series win have all come at home conditions. The good news for Virat Kohli and his men is that all their frontline players are fit and available. And the forced break due to postponed IPL 2021 gives them time to better prepare for a gruelling England tour.
Strengths of India
A world-class pace bowling attack
If India has done well overseas in the recent past, a lot could be credited to their booming pace bowling attack. Even when India was without their first-choice pace bowlers, India’s reserve pace bowlers such as Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, T Natarajan won India the decisive Test against Australia in Brisbane and bagged the series 2-1. And this time, their first-choice pace bowlers are fit and raring to go. So, even if the Southampton pitch is a complete bowling pitch, India has the ammunition to bowl out the Kiwis twice.
Weaknesses of India
Middle-order is not in top form
Team India has a world-class middle-order, but all their three batsmen – C Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane – have not fired on all cylinders recently. All three batsmen are due for a big score. And they might choose the WTC final to settle their poor run of late. If not, their lower-order comprising Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja will have a lot of work to do.
Possible Playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, C Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah
Chances: Kohli and his men take time to settle down in overseas conditions, and that could be their biggest worry. Unless they find their groove quickly on foreign conditions, India would find it difficult to counter the Kiwis pace bowling attack that would relish bowling in England as it would be similar to the one back home. But India is a strong team with a lot of heart and character, and the WTC final would just be the occasion they would like to bring their ace game to the fore.
NZ, Current rank: 2nd, Form guide: WWWW
The Kiwis have won 3 straight Test series, whitewashing India, West Indies and Pakistan 2-0 each at home. Their only concern would be that they are not so good travellers. Although both the teams would be playing the WTC final at a neutral ground, the Kiwis would still hold the slight advantage as English pitches and conditions would match theirs back home where the ball does its bit in the first session of play on each day.
Strengths of New Zealand
Kane Williamson, and the bowling attack
New Zealand’s success in Tests in the recent past could be attributed to Williamson’s form with the bat. Williamson thrives in this format, and has a remarkable consistency. If Williamson gets going, he would bat India out of the final. Another big strength for New Zealand is their bowling attack comprising Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Kyle Jamieson. It could destroy any batting attack on its day.
Weaknesses of New Zealand
The big chokers
NZ is known to choke in knockouts. They ended up as second-best in the last two 50-overs World Cup finals. Besides, they are not so great travellers, known to succumb under pressure in crucial moments of the game. For the Kiwis, the WTC final is their biggest stage after the 2019 50-overs World Cup final loss, and nerves might get the better of them once again.
Possible playing XI:
Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling
Chances: If Williamson and his men could put behind their records in knockouts, and take the WTC final as just any other game, they have a good chance of upsetting India. That’s easier said than done. India and NZ are equally matched on paper, with the Kiwi bowling attack having a slight edge as they have played on similar pitches back home.
Who will win the WTC final?
There would be no draw for sure. The team that holds its nerves better would emerge the winner. India holds 60:40 edge over NZ in this WTC final.