New Zealand captured a fantastic win over the Poms in the 2nd Test to claim the series win but now their attention turns to the headline event. They will square off against India in the innagraul World Test Championship Final from Southampton on Friday night!
Check out our full preview and betting tips for the monster one-off Test match below.
Southampton, Friday 18th June 9.30pm (AEST)
Squad: Kane Williamson, Tom Latham, Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Doug Bracewell, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Jacob Duffy, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Will Young.
New Zealand come into the World Test Championship as the No.1 ranked team in the world on the back of their fantastic win over England in the 2nd Test. They were too good for the Poms, smashing 388 in their first innings before rolling their opponents for just 122 in the 2nd innings to set up a comfortable victory inside four days.
The big question mark surrounding the New Zealand side in the lead up to Friday will be the health of captain and No.1 ranked Test batsman in the world, Kane Williamson. The star has been battling an elbow injury that kept him out of the 2nd Test against England, but considering that decision was made to ensure he would be fit to play in the Test Championship, we expect him to line-up on Friday.
It gives the Kiwis an incredibly strong squad to choose from and one that will require far less crucial decisions at the selection table than that of the Indians. Their top six of Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Ross Talyor, Henry Nicholls and BJ Watling looks set, while the fast bowling trio of Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner will certainly make up three of the remaining spots.
The fight for the remaining two spots is the only key decision to be made in the NZ camp this weekend. Do they go with the all-rounder duo of Mitchell Santner and Colin de Grandhomme or what about fast bowling sensation Kyle Jamieson paired with spinner Ajaz Patel?
Squad: Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Mayank Agarwal, Ravi Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravi Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Rishabh Pant, Axar Patel, Cheteshwar Pujara, KL Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Rohit Sharma, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill, Shardul Thakur, Hanuma Vihari, Washington Sundar, Umesh Yadav.
The Indians ‘horses for courses’ approach to their Test squad over the past couple of years and the success they have had with is has left them with some tough decisions at the selection table in the lead up to the Test Championship.
The safe approach would be to play the XI that includes all of the big names, the players that have made India a powerhouse in world cricket for the past decade. But what about the likes of Axar Patel and Washington Sundar, who were heroes of their historic series win in Australia last summer.
Rohit Sharma seems to have cemented his spot at the top of the order, joining him will most likely be Shubman Gill. The middle order is the most settled part of the line-up, with Pujara, Kohli, Rahane and Pant taking up the remaining six spots in the top six. What the Indians do from there is the big question.
Personally, I think their best line-up is with the two spinners at 7 and 8, even in England with the Duke ball. Ravi Jadeja adds so much with bat, ball and in the field, while Ravi Ashwin is the best spinner of the generation. Pair those two with a fast bowling trio of Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah and you have a team capable of beating any opponent in any conditions.
What a tough game to call. When breaking down how I think the playing XI’s will be selected, the one thing that pops to the forefront of my mind here is that the Kiwis are relying on the conditions favouring fast bowlers to be competitive. They will likely go into this game with four front-line pace bowlers in Jamieson, Southee, Boult and Wagner and either a part time spinner in Santner or an extremely inexperienced one in Patel.
The Indians on the other hand, have three of the most experienced fast bowlers in the world paired with arguably the best spinning duo of the generation. They are far more prepared if the Southampton pitch is conducive to spin but they are only slightly outmatched if it favours pace.
The Indians have changed the way selectors go about choosing a Test side over the past decade. Previously, your wicket-keeper was locked in at No.7 and your four frontline bowlers took up the four sports behind him. Now, with the Indian’s confidence in Jadeja and Ashwin with the bat, they are able to play an extra frontline bowler, a tactic that has been adopted by many teams over the past few years, including New Zealand themselves.
I think there is not much splitting the top six on either side, and I can definitely see this game being won by the whichever bottom five performs better with both the ball and the bat. The India vs New Zealand rivalry has been dominated by the home side over the past decade, with the visiting team not having won a game since all the way back in 2009 when India won at Seddon Park. Considering the English conditions are much more similar to that of New Zealand than India, it probably gives the Kiwis the slight advantage here.
After all that analysis. We remember that the game is being played in England, so can only come to one logical conclusion here. The match will go into a sixth day if needed, but I'm not sure that will be enough considering how much rain is forecast over the course of the six days. If rain wasn’t a factor, we’d probably tell you to back the Kiwis.
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