When the sun in the blue skies descends on India and when the moon vigils the black skies of New Zealand, on England's south coast, after breakfast, the titans will clash for the all elusive mace.
The final of the World Test Championship will start tomorrow between India and New Zealand.
When and where is the final:
Earlier WTC final was scheduled in the iconic Lord's cricket ground, but after the covid 19 situations, ICC has rescheduled the finals to Rose Bowl, Southampton, England.
Match time: 15:00 IST (10:30 local)
Match Date: 18th June (Friday)
The winning team will take home 1.6 million USD along with the ICC Test Championship Mace. The losing team and the 7 other nations which participated in the championship for over two years will also be rewarded with a cash prize.
The International Cricket Council said in an official release, "In case the final ends in a draw or a tie, the finalists will split the prize money for the first and second places and share possession of the Mace during the time they remain champions".
Weather conditions for the final
The weather forecast websites show rain interruptions throughout the Test match. Seldom will the Ageas Bowl remain dry. Moreover, it is predicted that weather gods will visit on the reserve day (23rd) too.
Under this gloomy weather, the head groundsman Simon Lee, who is preparing a pitch that sees an even contest, said to the ESPN Cricinfo that it will have "pace, bounce and carry" and at the same time because the "pitches dry out very quickly" spinners can enjoy bowling as well.
The finalists weigh almost the same. Both have a lethal pace bowling attack, a formidable batting line-up, a set of agile fielders, especially slip fielders. Both possess strong bench strength. However, there remain a few things that can make a difference.
While the Indian contingent spent a strict quarantine period at the Hilton (hotel within the ground), some 80 miles away, their counterparts played against England at Lord's. They followed it with a series win at Birmingham. Their spirits would now be high. Whereas Indians, apart from an intra-squad match have had a lot of net sessions. The Kiwis get a slight edge over their opponents in adapting quickly to the changing conditions.
If the conditions assist spinners later in the match, India has bowlers like Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, who can rip apart the batting line-up. On the other side, Ajaz Patel, after having bowled splendidly in the Birmingham Test, has been picked as a lone spinner in the pace-heavy New Zealand bowling attack.
Ajaz will bowl with Tim Southee, Trent Boult, and Neil Wagner. It needs to be seen who will make the cut between Kyle Jamieson and Matt Henry. Their coach Gary Stead said that choosing the XI is a "Nice problem to have", because not just the two, all the above-mentioned bowlers have put impressive performances in the recent past.
Their batting has further strengthened after the comeback of captain Kane Williamson and wicketkeeper B.J. Watling, who will retire after this Test. Seeing Devon Conway's dream debut; Ross Taylor, Will Young, and Tom Latham amongst runs, New Zealand's team looks well balanced.
India has the resources as well. Perhaps, it will not be much of a headache to choose the XI. The squad has just two specialist openers: Rohit Sharma and Shubham Gill. To steady the ship in the middle they have Cheteshwar Pujara, captain Virat Kohli, his deputy Ajinkya Rahane. Followed by the first-choice wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant, then Jadeja and Ashwin.
It seems India will not play one spinner and three pacers. The two spinners bring depth in batting. Most importantly, due to the "mini-heatwave," the pitch will aid their style of bowling. The experienced trio of Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, and Ishant Sharma can be the likely pacers. Yes, Mohammad Siraj did well in the intra-squad match, the team management can even think of, the lanky Hyderabadi.
Both the teams will now be looking to conquer sessions, then days, and then they get closer to the mace. It will be a contest of heavyweights. A contest not to be missed. Get ready for the new dawn of Test cricket.
India Squad: Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (WK), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (WK), Umesh Yadav
New Zealand Squad: Kane Williamson (C), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling (WK), Will Young
Where to watch?
Watch on Star Sports Network and Hotstar from 14:30 pm IST.
Cover Credits: ICC-Cricket