As far as test cricket is concerned, India have been the best team without a doubt in this WTC cycle. Not taking anything away from the Kiwis, but they didn’t do well in the tougher away series that they played, which wasn’t a lot thanks to the number of series cancelled due to Covid-19. They won easy home series against Pakistan and West Indies and benefited from Australia’s canceling their South Africa tour. India, on the other hand, entered the finals on the back of a come from behind victory against the mighty Aussies in their own backyard, and a comfortable win against England, though in trying conditions at home.
Coming into this game, New Zealand always had the upper hand because of their familiarity to these conditions, also the fact that they had played a two match series against England prior to the final. India, on the other hand, had only played a solitary intra squad game in the build up. Still, a few pundits believed India could well come out on top, and even compared this match to the ‘David and Goliath’ story.
If we look closely at the match proceedings, by no means was it a one sided game. Just when one team seemed to be in the driver’s seat, the other would jump right back in. India were ahead at the end of Day two, and then New Zealand came back to skittle them out the next morning. Just when New Zealand were consolidating with the bat in their hand, Shami led India’s resurgence to bowl them out below 250 to keep the pendulums swinging.
Even on the last day, all three results were possible before the day began. Had Kohli and Pujara stayed at the crease for 10 more overs, we might have had an easy draw in our hands. Had Pant occupied the crease for one another 30-40 minutes, we might well have had a crack at winning or a draw as worst case. The bowlers tried their hearts out, but a target of 140 was never going to be enough on a bright sunny day at Southampton.
So, India didn’t play badly, it was the Kiwis who were simply outstanding throughout the test. They were the better team, and it’s something the Indian contingent will also agree to. Jamieson’s purple patch continued, while the seasoned duo of Boult and Southee was impressive too. If you somehow managed to get through these three pacers, then you have the relentless Wagner bowling bouncers at you all day long !
Even though India fought well, they’ll still need to address a few issues like not getting a big score from the openers, inability to dismiss the opposition’s tail cheaply, and more contributions from the lower order batsmen. Let’s hope that these gaps are filled in the coming five test matches against England and we are set for another cracker of a series.
-- Jatin Shad