It all comes down to this, then. After a two-year competition, all that remain are five, or possibly six, days at the Hampshire Bowl to decide the inaugural World Test champions. India and New Zealand have proven to be the two best Test teams in the world since the start of the competition in 2019. But who will be crowned the best in a one-off, winner takes all final at a neutral venue? The match is an important game for a number of reasons. Firstly, for the two teams involved, the chance to win an ICC trophy is a significant draw.
New Zealand’s heartbreak in the last two ODI World Cup finals is giving them added motivation to put that right in this match while Virat Kohli has been a champion of Test cricket as India’s captain, driving his team to be respected as fierce competitors both at home and away. He desperately wants to win this competition to cement their standing. But beyond the significance for both sets of players and management, the game is meaningful for the longer-term future of the WTC too.
That could bring the spinners into things later on. Team News: India India announced their XI on the eve of the final. Although they like to play with a sixth batsman in overseas Tests, Ravindra Jadeja’s batting evolution has meant he has pipped Hanuma Vihari to that spot, also providing a spinning option while at it. R Ashwin will play as the frontline spinner with India opting for a three-man pace attack. Mohammed Siraj’s impressive start to his Test career didn’t have a bearing on India’s pace combination as they welcome back Mohammed Shami, reuniting the Bumrah-Ishant-Shami axis for the first time since Wellington 2020.
India Playing XI: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
New Zealand Barring any late injuries, New Zealand’s top seven will pick itself. Colin de Grandhomme won the selection battle with Daryl Mitchell, who was left out of the 15-man squad, and will bat at seven as he did during the first Test against England at Lord’s while Devon Conway’s brilliant start to his Test career against England will see him open alongside Tom Latham. The decision New Zealand have to make is whether to pick four quicks or three and the spin of Ajaz Patel. Arguably, their strongest combination would be the four-man battery of seam and swing, a strategy they have employed before in Tests. It is a tricky call.
Newzealand XI: Devon Conway, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner/Ajaz Patel, Trent Boult What they said: “It means a lot to me, you know playing just this one format. It’s like playing a World Cup final in any other format. If we win, I think more young players will want to play Test cricket in India. Even across the world, Test cricket needs to survive and having this World Test Championship is a very good way to do it. Each and every series means a lot. Winning every Test gives you points. I think this should continue and I feel if India does well, many youngsters will want to play this format and would want to be part of the finals when the next cycle comes.” – Cheteshwar Pujara, on the enormity of the occasion. “I just think it’s really exciting to be here. The whole New Zealand side are really excited, it’s going to be a great occasion, playing against India. We’ve only been number one for a few weeks, they have been number one for five or six years so they are going to be a really hard opposition to play against. But we’re looking forward to that.” – Ross Taylor, on the challenge ahead of New Zealand. India (Playing XI): Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah Squads: India Squad: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli(c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant(w), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Hanuma Vihari, Umesh Yadav, Wriddhiman Saha New Zealand Squad: Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson(c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling(w), Colin de Grandhomme, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson, Matt Henry, Will Young, Tom Blundell