The Weather Gods have dominated proceedings in the final of the World Test Championship (WTC) in Southampton washing away two of the first four days of play and allowing only a total of 141.1 overs in the marquee encounter. However, with better weather predicted for the remaining two days in the match, an outright result is still very much on the cards. We look at the various possibilities and what could transpire on Day 5 and 6 in Southampton.
Less Draws & Three And A Half Days Finishes
Since the 1st of January, 2015, 232 of the 272 Tests have yielded an outright winner - that is a staggering 85.29%. With the advent of T20 cricket and the mushrooming of leagues all over the world, not only have run-rates gone up in red-ball cricket too but also weaker defensive techniques have meant that a higher percentage of Test matches are producing a result.
In this time-frame, there have been 70 Tests which have finished with three full days of play (ie 270 overs or 1620 deliveries) - out of these as many as 60 have picked an outright winner. This number is even more skewed if one considers the time period post 2018. Out of a total of 135 Tests played in this time-frame, as many as 75 (55.55%) have finished within 320 overs and 71 of these have fetched a winner with only 4 draws!
The number 320 is significant here. The WTC final has witnessed a total of 141.1 overs thus far. BBC has forecasted decent weather for Day 5 and clear skies for the reserve day which means out of a maximum of 196 overs scheduled there is a good chance that 178-180 overs will be completed. Add that to the overs already bowled and we cross that 320 overs mark in Southampton! And thus 320 overs or a little over three and a half days of play might well be enough in bowler friendly conditions for either Virat Kohli or Kane Williamson to put their hands on the ICC WTC Trophy.
In the light of the above, we look at the various match situations that could arise in the next couple of days in Southampton.
New Zealand Bat Once
In an ideal situation for New Zealand they would want their two most experienced batsmen - Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor - currently out in the middle to play for at least two sessions today, overhaul India and then with the help of a strong middle and lower-middle order - Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling and Colin de Grandhomme - post a big first innings total. But time is of essence here too so New Zealand can’t be sluggish and bat at their current run-rate if they want to force a result. In a 90-over day, they should aim to score at around 3.5 runs per over which would fetch them another 315 runs today. That means New Zealand, at close of play on Day 5, even if they are bowled out, finish with a total of above 400 and have a 199-run lead over India.
India then has to negotiate the better part of 90 overs tomorrow on a Day 6 pitch against a potent New Zealand swing and seam attack to avoid defeat.
However, a more realistic scenario is this.
India Dismiss New Zealand For 250 & Bat Till An Hour After Lunch On Day 6
The Indian pace attack did not have the best of starts on Day 3 with Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma looking a touch short on match practice with the new Dukes cherry. However, like New Zealand they have the talent, ability and experience to bounce back and with a little bit of luck going Mohammed Shami’s way, the trio can dismiss New Zealand in around two sessions for a total somewhere near 250.
If India is then given a positive start by Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill, like they were in the first innings they might just see a more aggressive version of skipper Kohli and maybe Rishabh Pant at number 4 to press on the accelerator and set New Zealand a target on Day 6. If all goes well and India dominate the bowling for two full sessions they can easily score at 3-3.5 runs per over which would mean that they could potentially get to 220 by Lunch or a little after on the reserve day setting New Zealand a target of 180-190 in around 50 overs.
A few quick wickets with New Zealand going for the target and we could end with an exciting finish.
New Zealand Collapse to 180 All-Out & India Bat Till Lunch on Day 6
The Indian pace attack, just like their New Zealand counterparts, has the potential to run through the New Zealand line-up in the first half of play on Day 5. If that happens and they keep New Zealand to a total of 180 or below, not only does India gain a crucial 37-runs first innings’ lead but also has more time to dictate the course of play in the final.
They can settle in and take their time and ideally bat for the entire second half today and till Lunch tomorrow - that would mean a total of 70-75 overs and around 200 additional runs. India would, in such a scenario, set New Zealand a chase of around 240 on Day 6 in around 70 overs.
A last day wicket, even in Southampton would get Ashwin and Jadeja into play and with a bit of reverse for Shami, one would not bet against India lifting the coveted trophy.
Now, all we want is for the rain to stay away and any one of these three possibilities unfold.