With the World Test Championship final getting underway at the Rose Bowl in Southampton on Friday, here are the main talking points...
Pacers call the shots
India and New Zealand have both reached the final thanks to the efforts of their respective bowling units. Both teams are blessed with attacks that can cause damage to opposition batters. If India have Bumrah, Shami, Ishant and Siraj in their ranks, the Kiwis have Boult, Wagner, Southee and Jamieson. But it is the spin department where India have a definite edge over the Black Caps. In Ashwin and Jadeja they inarguably have two of the best spinners in the world right now. NZ only have Ajaz Patel to depend on.
New Zealand are one side who rely heavily on match-ups. So much so that NZ coach Gary Stead complimented captain Kane Williamson for using his resources perfectly against India last year. The 2-0 drubbing India received in New Zealand is their only series loss in their WTC cycle. Bowling with the Dukes ball, Boult and Southee will test India's batting unit which has struggled to put big totals on board overseas. That said, it would be interesting to see how NZ play Ashwin and Jadeja. New Zealand just played only two Tests in the sub-continent (vs SL) in this WTC cycle, winning one and losing one. The tour of Bangladesh would have tested them, but it was cancelled because of the pandemic.
In the five Tests India played in England in 2018, they posted a total of 350 or above only once and went on to win the Test. That sums up India's struggles in English conditions, where the batting unit has failed to click as a collective. So India have to be wary against their new ball bowlers Boult and Southee. To make things worse, Rohit and Gill will be opening in a Test in England for the first time. If they get past the new ball bowlers, India will be tested by Jamieson or Wagner with short balls. It is going to be an acid test for India.
Not one of the traditional Test venues in England, the Rose Bowl was picked as a host because of the need to have a bio-secure environment. With a hotel inside the stadium premises, players were able to train during the quarantine period. It was for this reason that the final was moved out of Lord's.
Three of the six Tests played in the venue has ended in a draw with rain being a constant feature in each of them. And the forecast for this one doesn't look good either. It is also a venue where spinners get good assistance off the surface.
Keeping the English weather in mind, the ICC has allotted a reserve day. If the teams are not able to bowl the stipulated overs in five days because of bad weather, the Test can extend into a sixth day. If a winner isn't spotted, provided full five days of cricket is available, both teams will be declared joint winners.
Live on Star Sports 1 from 3.25 PM onwards