New Zealand created cricketing history at Southampton on Wednesday, becoming the first World Test Champions in 144 years of Test cricket. The New Zealand team, led by Kane Williamson, overcame heartbreak of losing two back-to-back ODI World Cup finals (2015 and 2019) as they beat India by 8 wickets at the Ageas Bowl to lift the Test Championship mace.
While New Zealanders back home woke up to celebrate, Indians will have a sleepless night, as the Virat Kohli-led side failed to make an impact on the big stage. The result meant India’s troubles in ICC events knockouts continued; they last won an ICC tournament in 2013: the Champions Trophy.
The victory was made possible by Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson, who played useful knocks after another stellar bowling performance.
This was New Zealand’s second major global cricket title after they beat India in the the 2000 Champions Trophy one-day final in Kenya. It was also a memorable and fitting send off for wicketkeeper BJ Watling, who will retire with this game. He battled a dislocated finger on the final day and yet kept wickets to finish on a high.
Having been set a target of 139 in 53 overs after dismissing India for 170 in their second innings, New Zealand were in a little bit of trouble at 44 for 2 but Williamson (52) and Taylor (47), the experienced pair, combined for an unbroken 96-run partnership to guide NZ home.
New Zealand’s chase started in a steady fashion as Devon Conway and Tom Latham took them to 19 for no loss at tea.
However, the game tilted a little towards India after the break as R Ashwin dismissed both the openers. Latham was stumped deceived in the flight while Conway missed one that came in with the angle to be lbw.
At 44 for 2, India would have hoped to apply the pressure. They nearly got Kane Williamson too as Ashwin hit his pad and the umpire raised his finger, but DRS saved the NZ captain.
Taylor and Williamson steadied the ship, Taylor even taking the attack to Ashwin to ease the pressure. India’s big chance came when Jasprit Bumrah induced an edge off Taylor on 26, but Cheteshwar Pujara dropped a sitter at first slip.
Williamson and Taylor then went about their business without fuss, helped along by some indisciplined bowling occasionally. Williamson nearly fell five short of his half-century, but Bumrah dropped a catch. It was that kind of a game for Bumrah, Williamson and India.
The day started with India resuming on 64 for 2, requiring at least one of Virat Kohli or Cheteshwar Pujara to play a big knock. However, that wasn’t to be as Kyle Jamieson dismissed both of them within the first 30 minutes.
Kohli’s 2014 demons seemed to return as he poked at one outside off to give the keeper an easy catch, falling for 13. Pujara then hung his bat out without conviction and edged to slip, managing only 15.
India were 72 for 4, and could have been much worse had Tim Southee not dropped a simple catch off Rishabh Pant early in his knock. Pant threatened to make New Zealand pay for the mistake, gradually settling in while also looking to attack.
Pant and Ajinkya Rahane built a crucial partnership of 37 before the latter fell in a soft manner, gloving Trent Boult down the leg side. Ravindra Jadeja hung around for a while before Neil Wagner’s short ball barrage ultimately consumed him.
India’s only hope of getting towards 200 was Pant. He got to the 40s but a wild slog off Boult and a sensational catch by Henry Nicholls ended his stay. Ashwin fell two balls later, ending any hope of a rearguard comeback. Shami did try swinging his bat but an incredibly smart field placement from Williamson ended his stay; one ball after Shami edged Southee to third man, Williamson kept a fielder stationed between fly slip and third man, only for the ball to go right into his hands the very next ball.
That was enough evidence to show that it was Williamson’s day, after all.