India will clash with New Zealand in the final of the World Test Championship starting in Southampton from Friday, the 18th of June. The outcome of the match will depend on a number of mini-battles and match-ups and how they fare against each other over the duration of the encounter. We identify four such potential key battles from the mega clash.
1. Rohit Sharma vs Trent Boult
Rohit Sharma has been the best opener in the world in the inaugural World Test Championship with 1030 runs in 11 matches at an average of 64.37 with 4 hundreds. He has scored big runs at the top of the order at a high strike rate putting the opposition bowlers on the backfoot and building a platform for the middle order. Rohit also tasted great success in England in 2019 in the World Cup, albeit in a different format – thus he knows what it takes to succeed in a world event in England.
His biggest challenge will be posed by his Mumbai Indians left-arm pacer Trent Boult. The New Zealander has a special ability to bring the red ball back into the right-hander and that will make Rohit a big lbw candidate against Boult. It would be interesting to see if Rohit takes a big stride against the left-hander or stands outside his crease to negate the swing. Boult may also test Rohit with the short ball but the Indian opener is one of the best players of the pull and would be up for the challenge.
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2. Tim Southee vs Virat Kohli
Tim Southee is New Zealand’s highest impact bowler in the WTC with 51 wickets in just 10 matches at a stunning average of 20.66 and strike rate of 45.9. He has the ability to swing the new Dukes Ball and will cause trouble to Virat Kohli especially if the Indian skipper comes out to bat early in the innings. Southee will bowl one out-swinger after the other to Kohli and test him outside the off stump – as James Anderson successfully did in 2014. He will then surprise him by getting the odd ball to jag in sharply which can go through the defenses of the Indian captain.
Kohli, like he did in 2018, will definitely bat outside the crease to negate the swing and get the lbw out of the equation against Southee. It was a tactic that worked brilliantly in 2018 in England where Kohli amassed 593 runs in the five-match series which included two centuries. He will also leave a number of deliveries outside the off stump in a ploy to tire out the bowlers and make them bowl into him to his strengths.
3. R Ashwin vs Kane Williamson
Kane Williamson is New Zealand’s greatest Test batsman in history and also the highest scorer of the WTC. He has been in prolific form of late and had scored a massive 736 runs in 7 innings at an average of 105.14 with three hundreds since 2020 before the start of the England series. Although a fine player of spin who does not shy from using his feet and dance down the track to the spinners, Williamson has had his share of problems against India’s master tweaker R Ashwin – the off-spinner has dismissed Williamson 5 times in as many matches.
Ashwin, in fact, has been New Zealand’s nemesis in Test cricket. He has bagged a whopping 48 wickets against them in just 6 Tests at an average of 16.97 and strike rate of 33.1 including six fifers and 3 ten-wicket hauls in a match. Ashwin bagged 7 in the match in Birmingham and had a great start to the summer in 2018. His form in SENA has also changed dramatically since the tour to South Africa in 2018. In conditions suiting pace and swing bowlers, Ashwin might just turn out to be the surprise package for India.
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4. Mohammed Shami vs Tom Latham
Mohammed Shami has been India’s best bowler in the WTC and had a decent tour of England in 2018. He was unplayable at The Oval with a number of plays and misses against his bowling. Shami has the best seam position in the world and if he can adjust his length and pitch the ball a touch fuller and in between the third and fourth stumps he would be a nightmare for the New Zealand batsmen.
His battle against Tom Latham would be intriguing as the New Zealand opener has the ability to play out time and overs and tire out the opposition bowlers. Shami would look to bowl over the wicket and get the ball in to Latham which would get the lbw into play big time.
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