At last New Zealand experience that winning feeling in a final after their victory over India in the World Test Championship
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A punch of the gloves between Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson was a typically understated way to celebrate victory by this New Zealand team as they became winners of the inaugural World Test Championship final.
Both carry the scars of defeat in two World Cup finals so you can understand why they were a little unsure how to mark winning one at last after an intense, riveting final that went deep into the sixth day.
Trent Boult said recently he would never get over losing the World Cup final in 2019 but New Zealand handled that excruciating defeat with a graciousness that made this moment of catharsis all the more poignant.
Williamson was sat on the Lord’s balcony a helpless onlooker as the Super Over drama unfolded two years ago but this time he was in the thick of it, wearing blows on his body, overturning an lbw dismissal and surviving a dropped catch to make a gutsy 89-ball 52 to see his team home by eight wickets.
He was partnered in a 96-run stand by Taylor who may see hitting the winning runs as the perfect way to round off a long career. “I’m sure a few Kiwis will be waking up very proud,” he said as the clock ticked towards 6am back home.
The last six-day Test in England was so long ago it featured centuries from Bob Woolmer and Ian Chappell, but the wait was worth it because despite everything that has been thrown at this final it was a riveting game of high quality not seen in this country for a long time with two excellent teams giving everything.
A new star has been born in Kyle Jamieson, man of the match for his seven for 61 from 46 overs of relentless examination of Indian techniques. Jamieson bowled two heroic spells on Wednesday of two for six in seven overs before lunch, landing the big ones of Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, and even though he was wicketless in his seven overs after the interval, he conceded only nine runs containing the threat of a counterattack by Rishabh Pant as India mustered only 170, setting a target of 139 in 53 overs.
Kyle Jamieson celebrates the vital wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara
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But this was not about one man. It was the concerted effort of cricket in New Zealand that has overcome the disparity in income and population to produce a team built on the collective and beat India’s superstars.
Pant is world cricket’s most exciting talent and when he was dropped on five by Tim Southee in the slips it felt as though New Zealand’s final curse was happening again but Jamieson’s persistence tempered his attack and he snapped when Boult came on to replace him, skewing a top edge caught brilliantly by Henry Nicholls running around from gully.
India’s last four wickets mustered only 14 runs as the old hands Boult and Southee finished them off. It followed the 12 runs India last four added in the first innings. New Zealand have exposed a soft underbelly of a team vaunted for its batting.
Scoring runs has been incredibly difficult all week with only two fifties in the game, but worryingly for India their middle order nobility of Pujara, Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane are performing like commoners with one century between them since the start of 2020 and none averaging above 29.
India’s hubris also let them down. They named the team two days before the game and stuck with two spinners despite the filthy forecast and likely conditions. Ravi Ashwin threatened but Ravindra Jadeja was a passenger which left three seamers to hold the attack together, predictably tiring when a final push was needed.
India started the day resuming on 64 for two and with the sun shining batting threatened to be easier than at any stage in the game. But Jamieson probed at a tight off stump line, earning edges from Kohli and Pujara, both tickling behind wide deliveries they were lured into playing by previous balls.
All of sudden it was clear there could be only one winner. The cries of “India, India” went up and fans bangled cymbals and drums every time Pant or Jadeja played a shot in anger but Neil Wagner has the tenacity that could make him an All Black and ploughed a leg side theory that drew the mistake. As soon as he bowled wide of off stump a relieved Jadeja could not resist and was caught behind.
New Zealand suffered scares. Conway and Tom Latham fell to Ashwin and Williamson was given out leg before on one, but Hawkeye showed the ball was missing leg stump. It was the pivotal moment. Runs were a grind and only flowed as the target neared and Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami tired. Bumrah dropped a skier off Williamson when he was on 43 but it was all over by then anyway. Moments later Taylor flicked Shami for the winning runs. England fans can stop feeling guilty about the last final now.
In New Zealand the World Test Championship has the perfect inaugural winners
By Tim Wigmore
To those still doubting the concept of a World Test Championship final, the sight of Virat Kohli on the sixth day at the Hampshire Bowl provided the perfect riposte. As India desperately hunted wickets to deny New Zealand the inaugural Test crown, Kohli repeatedly gesticulated to the crowd, admonishing them to offer more vociferous support for India.
For the World Test Championship to get to this point, almost everything that could go conceivably go wrong – and a lot that no one had thought of – did. It has taken two decades of boardroom wrangling – including the tournaments for 2013 and 2017 officially being launched, only to be cancelled before inception – for the competition to even begin its first edition. Then, it was marred by an arcane points system, the inequalities of the existing fixture list and a global pandemic, which made the league format even more opaque and confusing. When the final eventually began, a match spanning the longest day of the entire year, it featured two whole days lost to rain, the first instance of this in a Test in England since 2012.
And yet, as the sun finally defeated the clouds and a slow-burning, oscillating Test was playing out a tense, engrossing denouement, the memories of how this concept had come to seem cursed swiftly dissipated. If this was a referendum on Test cricket’s future, and the notion that this new competition can galvanise the venerable format, the campaign had been won long before Ross Taylor clipped the winning runs on a glorious midsummer’s evening in Hampshire.
Even amid the grim weather of the preceding five days, the essential virtues of the Test Championship had still shone through. The intensity of the contest was unrelenting, the quality – especially for those with the dubious fortune of following the travails of England’s top order – exemplary, as both sides scrapped in the face of magnificently probing bowling.
The build-up to the final had focused on the contrasts between New Zealand and India. These are indeed remarkable: the battle pipped five million against 1.4 billion, and a board with annual revenue of £28 million against one with £380 million.
But, as they have amassed 10 victories in their past 12 series, New Zealand have shown that they are giants too. Five of their side – Williamson, who scored a combined 101 for once out in a Test when no one else scored more than 68 in treacherous batting conditions, Ross Taylor, Watling, Tim Southee and Trent Boult – have strong claims for a berth in an all-time New Zealand XI. In the coming years, Kyle Jamieson will surely enter that company too. Jamieson took a remarkable seven for 61 from 46 overs, including twice dismissing Virat Kohli; when he did so for a second time, on the final morning, it reinvigorated the Test.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson got the better of his opposite number Virat Kohli in a great advert for Test cricket
In keeping with a team based on the collective, runs from the tail were also crucial. New Zealand added 89 runs for their last four wickets in the first innings to clinch a first innings lead. India managed just 35 and 28 for their last four wickets across both innings, a failing that it will now take them two years to remedy.
It has taken 144 years for Test cricket to crown a winner through a one-off final. The World Test Championship remains flawed; given the peculiarities of Test cricket, it probably always will be. And yet, for all its imperfections, the competition has already shown that it can add to Test cricket’s rich tapestry. It is here to stay. From now on, whether England – or any other side – reach the World Test final will be a barometer of their success as a Test side.
Yet Test cricket’s challenge is not really in how Australia, England and India can produce compelling cricket; it lies in how to sustain the sport elsewhere, and ensure the format does not retreat into being the domain of the sport’s three economic powers alone. So New Zealand were apt winners: in a sense, the very competition had been designed for them. They offer a stirring template of what is possible for those without their resources. And after some uncharitable grumbles that their place in the final owed merely to being masters of the land of Lord of the Rings, New Zealand leave England with the best possible riposte: the first team to topple England at home for seven years, and Test world champions to boot.
Before the final, there had been much talk about which result would be best for Test cricket. There was even the fantasy that an Indian victory here would do the same for Test cricket as their victory in the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007. But as Virat Kohli spent New Zealand’s run chase revving up the crowd, his desperation to win so palpable, the inaugural World Test Championship has already thrown up the perfect storyline for the second edition: Kohli’s quest for revenge.