The inaugural ICC World Test Championship Final (WTC) is just five days away. It will be played in Southampton from June 18-22 which will conclude an event that has been played over two years. The WTC final between India and New Zealand is a rematch in many ways of the ICC World Cup 2019 semi-final.
Talking particularly about New Zealand, the Kiwis which already played Test series against England just before the WTC final will give them a confidence before they take on India. New Zealand, having its eyes set on the biggest prize have come long in WTC final after defeating India, Pakistan and West Indies at home and drew in Sri Lanka, with the only blip being the loss in Australia. Kane Williamson and Co with their brilliance retained a very strong outlook, especially in familiar conditions at home.
They now only have one last battle in their way of lifting Test cricket’s biggest prize. But before padding up, Kane Williamson and team management will have to finalise their playing XI for the ultimate clash. The problems always will lie ahead of management that what should be the best playing XI in a much awaited WTC final. History suggests the pitch at Southampton has been dry and favours the spinners as the game develops. It’ll be interesting to see what Kane Williamson will decide their best XI. In this article, let us take a look at possible XI of New Zealand that will battle Team India’s for WTC final.
The fix opener for New Zealand will be their vice-captain, Tom Latham. He has played a vital role for his side to surge in the World Test Championship final. The south-paw has 680 runs from 11 Tests in the league so far at an average of 40.00, with his total including five half-centuries and a solid ton. The Black Caps will depend a lot on Latham to give them solid starts against pacers of India.
Devon Conway has scored a double ton on debut at Lords in the game against England. The man in form, Conway has scored 303 runs in two matches (the runs have been calculated till the first innings of NZ against England). The Black Caps, would be hoping that the 29-year-old continues his form against India at the WTC final.
Skipper Kane Williamson is at the top of the run-charts for New Zealand in the cycle with 817 runs from 9 Tests at an average over 58, including three tons. Williamson has dominated with the bat during the last home season against West Indies and Pakistan and will shoulder responsibilities in Southampton. He will be hoping to lead from the front versus superb Indian pacers.
Will Ross be like boss? One of the experienced players in NZ, Ross Taylor can also be a big threat for Indian bowlers. Though, Ross hasn’t had the greatest of the WTC by his standards as he is averaging just above 31, the 37-year-old may go straight out with the attacking style of his play against India. Taylor is one of the best players of spin and will have a huge task up his sleeves against R Ashwin.
One can call him silent killer of the Kiwis. Batting at No 5, Henry Nicholls has 585 runs in 10 matches in the 2019-21 WTC and was one of the most impressive batsmen for the Black Caps. With couple of centuries to his name, he will look forward to get few more runs in the final against India.
The reliable right-hand batsman and super-efficient wicket-keeper has been a consistent contributor for his side. With 8 tons and 1 double-hundred to his name, the 35-year-old will look to score big against India. Watling has already scored multiple match-winning knocks for his side. But New Zealand Cricket (NZC) stated that wicketkeeper-batsman Watling was ruled out of the second Test against England. Thus, it will be interesting to see if not Watling, will Tom Blundell don the wicket-keeping gloves.
Colin de Grandhomme
If Colin de Grandhomme is fit, he is expected to get the approval for the all-rounder’s position in New Zealand’s WTC XI. The right-handed batsman can blaze his willow for some quick and important runs down the lower order and will also help NZ bowling lineup with his swing in the English conditions.
Kyle Jamieson/ Mitchell Santner
Kyle Jamieson has been fantastic with the bat and the ball for New Zealand since making his debut in the Tests a couple of years ago. The tall-bowler has proved lethal against opponents on number of occasions. Jamieson comes in the Test after he bowled well in Test series against England as well as in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021.
NZ can also give a chance to Mitchell Santner, due to dry conditions at Southampton. The left-arm spinner will prove to be crucial for New Zealand. Also, against India, NZ will think of an extra batting option.
An incredible case study of his own at the Test level, Neil Wagner has been brilliant for New Zealand with his unique methods of countering the opposition batsmen. Wagner, the No. five-ranked bowler in the ICC Test rankings will be one of the biggest threats for Indian batting lineup. The left-arm seamer does not express pace, but possess an ability to swing the ball combined with an obstinate attitude.
World No 3 in ICC Test Ranking for bowlers in Tests, Tim Southee could prove dangerous for Indian batsmen if the track at the Southampton offers some seam movement. The 32-year-old pacer has been lethal in Test matches, taking over 300 wickets at an average of 28.32. Southee is in stellar form with the ball and recently picked a six-wicket haul in the drawn Lord's Test against England last week.
Last but not the least, Trent Boult will be one of the spear-headed bowlers for the NZ. When it comes to swing, he has mastered the art of swinging the ball back into the right-handed batsman. The left-arm pacer who was rested for England Tests will bounce back with the confidence against India in the WTC final. It will be interesting to see how he bowls to India’s Rohit Sharma who shared the dressing room in IPL 2021 for Mumbai Indians (MI).