Southampton, 24 June : A brilliant performance by New Zealand’s seamers and a composed run chase by Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor ensured the Black Caps made history by beating India to win the inaugural ICC World Test Championship.
New Zealand entered the reserve day of the Final at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton eyeing victory and their bowlers delivered in style to skittle India for 170 before Williamson and Taylor steered a successful chase of 139 to secure a memorable eight-wicket win.
With India starting the day at 64 for two in their second innings, a lead of 32, all four results were still possible but the Black Caps’ pace quartet of Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner combined to take the final eight wickets for the concession of just 106 more runs.
That gave them at least 53 overs to chase down 139 and, despite some early Ravichandran Ashwin-induced wobbles, their two most senior batsmen saw them over the line to become the first-ever winners of the ICC World Test Championship.
After rain had wiped out two of the first five days of this Test match, the ICC implemented the use of its reserve day to increase the chances of a result, with 98 overs due to be bowled on day six.
While both sides still had designs on securing the win, Jamieson quickly put New Zealand on the front foot in the morning session as he got India captain Virat Kohli to nick behind for 13 and forced Cheteshwar Pujara to bottom edge to Taylor at slip shortly after.
Although the dangerous Rishabh Pant, who was dropped by Southee on five, counter-attacked, a fifth Indian wicket fell before lunch when Ajinkya Rahane (15) was caught behind by BJ Watling off Boult.
The 35-year-old Watling – playing his final Test match of a distinguished international career – dislocated his right ring finger during the morning session but gamely battled on behind the stumps and took his third catch of the innings to remove Ravindra Jadeja after lunch and reduce India to 142 for six.
The unorthodox Pant had shown his class when whipping Jamieson through mid-on for four before charging down the pitch to Wagner and punching the ball through mid-off for another boundary, so him finally being dismissed for 41 felt like a huge moment for New Zealand.
Pant danced down the track once again, aiming to hit Boult over long-on but instead got under the ball and Henry Nicholls took a good catch over his shoulder with India still only on 156.
The Indian tail was then quickly dispatched as Boult had Ashwin caught by Taylor two balls later and Southee ended with innings-best figures of 4/48 by dismissing Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, both caught by Tom Latham, as India were all out for just 170.
It was the first time since 2018 that no Indian batsman reached a half-century in either innings of a Test match and a target of 139 looked eminently chaseable for New Zealand.
A circumspect start by the Black Caps allowed openers Latham and Devon Conway to see out the eight overs before tea unscathed, as they reached 19-0 at the interval.
But scoring was slow and the pressure eventually told as Latham came down the wicket, saw Ashwin’s delivery beat the bat and Pant smartly stumped him to make the score 33 for one.
India thought they had the key wicket of Williamson for just one when he was given out LBW by umpire Michael Gough, again off Ashwin, only for the decision to be overturned on review.
Ashwin did trap Conway LBW shortly after to become the leading wicket-taker in the World Test Championship and reduce the Black Caps to 44/2 but Taylor (47 not out) and Williamson (52 not out) rebuilt by keeping the scoreboard ticking and punishing the bad balls.
Taylor in particular crunched a couple of wider balls through the off-side for four and when Pujara dropped him at slip off the bowling of Bumrah, with 55 runs still needed, the writing appeared to be on the wall.
And so it proved, as the two veteran New Zealanders hit another gear to reach the target inside 46 overs, despite a Williamson skier hitting the ground with the Black Caps approaching single figures needed.
Fittingly, the New Zealand skipper reached the half-century mark, bringing up his 50 with a boundary, while Taylor flicked the winning runs through the leg-side to win New Zealand’s second major international trophy, following their ICC Knock Out triumph back in 2000.
Scores in brief:
India 217 in 92.1 overs (Ajinkya Rahane 49, Virat Kohli 44; Kyle Jamieson 5/31, Neil Wagner 2/40)
New Zealand 249 in 99.2 overs (Devon Conway 54, Kane Williamson 49, Tom Latham 30, Tim Southee 30; Mohammed Shami 4/76, Ishant Sharma 3/48)
India 170 in 73 overs (Rishabh Pant 41, Rohit Sharma 30; Tim Southee 4/48, Trent Boult 3/39, Kyle Jamieson 2/30)
New Zealand 140/2 in 45.5 overs (Kane Williamson 52 not out, Ross Taylor 47 not out; Ravichandran Ashwin 2/17)