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ICC World Test Championship final preview: New Zealand starts favourite against India in ultimate Test battle

India and New Zealand would lock horns in the ICC World Test Championship 2019-21 final at the Rose Bowl in Southampton from Friday. It would be the maiden final of the maiden global Test cricket competition, recognised by the International Cricket Council.

ICC World Test Championship final preview: New Zealand starts favourite against India in ultimate Test battle-ayh
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Southampton, First Published Jun 17, 2021, 1:49 PM IST
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It would be the ultimate test of nerves and strength as India and New Zealand would battle it out in the terminal match of Test cricket. The much-awaited ICC World Test Championship final would be played at the Rose Bowl in Southampton from Friday.

Both sides did have a great outing throughout the tournament. However, while India lost just a series of its six, it still had to toil to get to the final owing to the point percentage system.

Meanwhile, the Kiwi played five series, winning three and losing one, besides one ending in a draw, while the sixth series was cancelled due to the pandemic, thus finishing second. Notwithstanding, the battle would be highly volatile, as we present the preview of this ultimate clash.

Current form
Considering the current form, both sides are coming off wins. As for India, it rout England 3-1 in the four-Test series at home, while it also trumped Australia Down Under 2-1. Meanwhile, New Zealand won a two-Test series at home to Pakistan 2-0, while it lost its previous away Test series to Australia 0-3.

Team combination
As for the teams, India has a star-studded squad. However, it is comparatively heavy on its batting, 10-7 to be precise. While its batting would have a lot to do against New Zealand's lethal pace attack, the Indians will have a lot to rely on its pace attack, which is more than that of its spin (5-2).

Considering the Kiwi, it has a star-studded line-up too, focusing more on its batting, 9-6 to be precise. But, again, recognising India's deadly pace and seam attack, the New Zealand batsmen would have to work hard. As for Kiwi's bowling, it has an all-out pace attack, with just a spinner in the side (5-1), proving that the Indians would not have an easy time.

Injury concerns
None of the sides has any injury concerns a day before the game.

Head-to-head
Considering the head-on clashes between the two, India has traditionally been ahead, winning 21 of the 59 Tests, while New Zealand has won 12. However, the rivalry has relatively seen more draws (26).

Weather and pitch report
The weather in Southampton is undoubtedly bad news for fans, with rain predicted on all five days, including the reserve day on Wednesday. Thus, chances of a draw are high.

As for the track, it is expected to be green and has a large grass cover. However, the curator has predicted that it would be prepared to also assist pacers, along with bounce and carry. Nonetheless, the team winning the toss is likely to bowl first.

Probable XI
India:
Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Tom Latham (vc), Devon Conway, Ross Taylor, Henry Nichols, BJ Watling (wk), Ajaz Patel, Kyle Jamieson, Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner.

Fantasy XI
Batsmen:
Taylor, Kohli, Pujara, Williamson (c)- Williamson and Kohli are sure to act as openers in the Fantasy XI. While Williamson is heavily reliable, thus making him the skipper, Kohli is somewhat shaky in England but can never be ruled out. Meanwhile, Pujara can consolidate at number three, followed by Taylor in the middle.
Wicketkeeper: Pant- The only guy in the department in Pant, who has been on the rising chart and has been highly consistent with his form.
All-rounder: Jadeja- It had to be a tough call between Ashwin and Jadeja. However, considering that spin would not play a crucial factor here, Jadeja gets the edge owing to his reliable batting.
Bowlers: Southee, Shami, Boult (vc), Bumrah, Ajaz- We have five bowlers, as Southee, Shami, Boult and Bumrah are sure to be the prime pacers here. Also, we have Ajaz as a specialised spinner who can be effective if the wicket starts turning. Meanwhile, Boult's effectiveness makes him the deputy skipper.

Players to watch out
Williamson:
A no-brainer in this contest, Williamson is one of the best batsmen in the world. Although he failed in the last Test against England at Edgbaston, he is likely to be back at his best in this clash.
Boult: The Kiwi pacer is one of the best pacers in the world, especially in the longest format. Furthermore, with a fair amount of grass on the surface, he can make the ball seam, while the Indians are sure to struggle.
Pant: As said above, the Indian wicketkeeper-batsman has been rising the charts, thanks to his consistent batting. Also, having had a fine outing in England in the past few years, besides scoring a ton in the intra-squad warm-up game, he will have high confidence in the game.
Bumrah: Among the Indian bowlers, Bumrah is its number one pacer. Furthermore, he has been highly effective outside India and could spell bad news for the Kiwi batsmen, especially considering his lethal ability to bowl yorkers.

Match details
Date and day:
June 18, 2021 (Friday)
Venue: Rose Bowl, Southampton
Time: 3 PM (IST)
Where to watch (TV): Star Sports 1 and Star Sports 1 Hindi (Also available in HD, along with regional languages)
Where to watch (Online): Hotstar

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