India v New Zealand: World Test Championship final, day one abandoned – as it happened

Last modified: 02: 16 PM GMT+0

What awaits, courtesy of Ali Martin:

The decision to factor in a reserve day at the end is already looking prudent after persistent rain in Southampton pushed the start of the match back by 24 hours. This was a bleak opening to what is supposed to be a historic encounter between the two top-ranked Test sides, with both sets of players confined to the on-site hotel on the opening day at the Ageas Bowl and the covers never once shifting.

That’s enough from us today, as thrilling as it must be for you to have Tim and I bring you live descriptions of rain, rain, and Nasser Hussain. Back to it tomorrow. We have the Indian XI, we still don’t have a New Zealand XI because we haven’t had the toss and they could change it up, and we still have five days of Test cricket to look forward, gods willing. We gave it a go - nothing ventured, nothing rained (off). Stay dry out there.

Tamara Paravacini emails in. “Thanks to Abhijato Sensarma and the OBO for expanding my knowledge about the laws of cricket (again). Until this evening I didn’t know what the metric for setting the follow-on target was - although admittedly hearing the endless discussion on live TV coverage does tend to send me into a fugue state. I had assumed that it was a ratio of the actual runs from the first innings. Why on earth wouldn’t it be proportionate to the earlier total - I’m a scientist, and we express lots of things as relative values (e.g. per day, per kg, per capita, per 1000 people, etc) because that’s the only way much of this data is meaningful. And yet the follow-on target isn’t? For a sport so obsessed with numbers, this makes no sense to me. Thanks as always for the entertainment!”

See, this is the incisive scientific thinking that we need. So as I mentioned, it must have been devised as at least notionally proportional on the likely scores, given that it changes based on the notional length of the match. But it doesn’t change based on the actual scores. A team that has 220 versus 40 on the first innings should probably have the right to enforce a follow-on, no?

The forecast!

This is the key part. Gather over the crystal ball with me, children. Crack the bones of this chicken and throw them into the string circle. Chew on this cicada while we intone the words of power. Southampton, tomorrow... looks pretty good, according to the BBC. They have a sub-10-percent chance of precipitation during the morning hours, and it only creeps up above 20 percent from 3pm.

What does the abandonment mean? Well, Test matches in England don’t ever start early to make up lost time, as they do in Australia. They add time to the end, which is bold given the way that light can deteriorate or rain can move in. So we will try to start this match tomorrow at the scheduled start time of 10:30am, and then make up an extra half hour at the end of the day. Which means that if there is play tomorrow, then we’ll definitely need the usual extra half hour for slow over rates, given how much modern teams dawdle. Then we’ll add another half hour for the rain overs, so we’ll go through to 6:30pm local time after that 10:30am start. Yes, Tests in England normally start at 11am, but for some reason this one has been scheduled from 10:30. If it’s not raining, that is.

Play has been abandoned on day one of the World Test Championship final

That’s all, folks. It started raining again about 20 minutes before the scheduled inspection, and that rain has got heavier. Now with only three to four possible hours of play left in the day, and the covers still on, and a significant amount of time that would be needed to ready the surface even if the rain did stop, the officials have decided to come back and try again tomorrow. Something that we could all stand to be able to do on some days of our lives.


“Sing us a song, you’re the Bannerman
Sing us a song tonight
Cos we’re all in the mood for a century
And our teammates are batting like shite.
Na na nah, nah na na naaah...”

@Final_Word_Pod @collinsadam @GeoffLemonSport partnership Bannermann?

— GB (@gopalbx) June 18, 2021

On innovations in the game, at least in the shorter forms, I wonder why teams shouldn’t be allowed to make batting changes in the same way they do bowling changes. We’ve heard some discussion about strategically retiring batters in T20 cricket, but no teams have done it because it effectively costs them a wicket. But why should it? Why should a player be able to stop batting and return later to have an injury treated, but not for tactical reasons? Why should a batting order be fixed?

It would add a huge tactical aspect and a point of interest if a team could, say, swap a batter into the middle at a key stage of a run chase, in order to try a certain approach. If it didn’t work, the replaced player could resume later in the innings. Or a certain batter might be subbed in and out multiple times in order to face certain bowlers. Though it should remain the fielding team’s right to change who is going to bowl that over. It wouldn’t help the slow over rates, but it could be interesting.

I’m told that the sixth day is already definitely going to be called upon, given that the most time that could be added to this match would be half an hour each day across the first five days. Totalling two and a half hours. And not counting the lunch break we’ve currently lost three and a half hours.

Abhijato Sensarma can always be relied upon for a cheerful email. “Considering that this WTC is the pinnacle of innovations (xD), could we have an impromptu brainstorming session about changes we would like to see in the game? I’ll go first: follow-on targets should be devised as the number closest to a percentage of first-innings runs (eg. 60%) to take into account the variable conditions of the game, rather than being set in stone as 150 or 200.”

I like this. Say a team plays on a real dusty turner, where runs are scraped out, and they battled to 183 before squeezing out the opposition for 94, why should the follow-on rely on deficits of 200 that would be almost unattainable in the match? The 200 mark must be produced by estimating a likely default score for the team batting first, given that it comes down to 150 in a four-day match where smaller scores via declarations would be anticipated. So why shouldn’t the calculation involve a proportion of that first score?

Shafali has just played an absolute beauty of a shot, steering with an almost stationary bat through deep third, but with such timing that it reached the fence in a trice. She’s on 30 off 28. On Test debut. At the age of 17. After smashing 96 in the first innings.

What’s everybody else doing while they wait? I am watching the women’s Test, which is very considerately still going in Bristol despite a few bursts of drizzle that have made the camera lenses moody. That’s what I’ve spent the past two days watching as well, so it’s nice that the men’s Test hasn’t got in the way thus far. Shafali Verma is at the crease, currently on 22 from 22 balls despite having spent the last few overs being fairly circumspect. No big shots today, just clean through the covers and off her legs. A thrilling talent. We have a concurrent OBO of that match with Tanya Aldred about to take over from Daniel Harris.

As Tim said earlier, it’s a matter of total cheerfulness that this match was given a span of six days. It means that we don’t need to wail or gnash any body parts about possibly losing an entire first day. We can smile, kick back, take it easy. That said, if the rain continues tomorrow then we’ll start the campaign to ban all cricket in England, because naturally* we all know** that it never rains*** in any other countries****.

Thanks Tim. And please, somebody, send me a missive as inspired as those from Joe Barnes. Inspection at 3pm, so that’s... (I squint and do timezone conversions in my head) midnight where I am. It is truly one of the wonders and joys of cricketing idiosyncrasy that someone in Melbourne, Australia, is required to sit up through the early hours of the morning to tell an audience in the UK that nothing is happening. Though I suppose there is also the audience in New Zealand, even deeper into the early hours of the morning, and if anyone there is sitting up hoping for play to start, I commend your commitment to the Beckettian nature of the project. In India it’s a very civilised early evening timeslot, so hello to you and I hope you have a pleasant dinner either en route or in your very recent history. Rain! Cricket. One must love it.

A development! “The umpires have been out to have a look at the ground here in Southampton,” says Rob Johnston from CricBuzz on Twitter. “They are going to have another inspection at 3pm. Still pretty wet and rain is forecast but it has been dry for a while so fingers crossed.”

And with that, it’s time for me to hand over to the award-winning Geoff Lemon. Thanks for your company, correspondence and BBQ reveries.

Never mind the barbie, Andrew Benton has a better idea, or a wetter one. “Perhaps an option,” he says, “on very very wet days: Aqua Cricket - a new sport.”

No news yet, so there’s time for the rest of Joe Barnes’s BBQ. As New Zealand haven’t named their XI, he’s only gone and done the whole squad.

“Kane Williamson: so ruthlessly nice he united the remain and leave dads, then did all the washing-up to an outstanding level.

“Tom Blundell: kissed a single girl, made everyone else jealous.

“Trent Boult: politely sledged a neighbour after taking out their off stump.

“Devon Conway: brought his own firewood for the BBQ, helped a child down from a tree, quietly lionised.

“Colin de Grandhomme: beat Pant at shots of Taboo, nailed karaoke doing Kings of Leon.

“Matt Henry: man of the BBQ, let everyone know lamb can be served pink, mostly trusted.

“Kyle Jamieson: won at ring toss by slam dunking.

“Tom Latham: square shoulders, won the nice smile award.

“Henry Nicholls: my mum thought he was called Harvey Nichols, four hot dogs eaten.

Ajaz Patel: managed to deflect questions about his beard preparer, voted best beard and classiest orator.

“Tim Southee: repeatedly told he is the NZ Jimmy Anderson, took it with good grace but headbutted Will Young.

“Ross Taylor: helped to his seat, chiselled out a half century of olives.

“Neil Wagner: voted best Neil, didn’t know Wagner from X Factors.

“BJ Watling: absolute superstar, cleaned the grill after the BBQ, defused a fight, cried when You’ll Never Walk Alone came on.”

“Will Young: headbutted.”

Great stuff, but I’m not sure those Kiwis are quite as nice as you think. We may see some steel over the next few days, if the rain ever relents.


Cometh the lunch hour, cometh the email. It’s from Joe Barnes. “I’ve given thought,” he says, “to which team would fare better in the event of a washed-out UK BBQ.” As you do.

Here he is on India.

“Virat Kohli: ruthless high-energy charm, all the mums in his pocket.

“Rohit Sharma: bought devilled eggs, bit too much bite for the local palate. Forced to try a Kopperberg alcohol-free cider, thought it was OK.

“Shubman Gill: demonstratively left lots of charcoaled meat.

“Cheteshwar Pujara: spent one hour weighing up the potato salad, smashed it all just after lunch.

“Ajinkya Rahane: pure class, helped out the chef, suggested mango with the salad, everyone agreed he should write a book.

“Rishabh Pant: maniac, tried to get grandpa to do shots of Taboo, threw his flip-flops over the fence.”

“Ravindra Jadeja: thrown out with Pant for picking up the ornamental sword but charmed his way back in. Sambuca with cousin Clive.”

“Ravichandran Ashwin: created a Tik-Tok to a Happy Mondays B-side, passionate about the chicken skewers.

“Mohammad Shami: took over the music, discovered Aswad.

“Jasprit Bumrah: kept showing everyone wedding photos, party trick well received.

“Ishant Sharma: not his first rodeo, provided towelling flip-flops to the hosts from current hotel, really enjoyed hugging the French bulldog, hated the cat.”

Lunch is now being taken in both Tests. At Bristol, England already have a wicket in the second innings, so that match is moving along at a rate of knots. In Southampton, the picture is quite different: the covers are one big beige lake. There will be an update at 1.30pm, but don’t hold your breath for good news.

More drama in Bristol. England have bowled India out for 231, which means all ten wickets have gone down for 64 in a textbook demonstration of Test-match ebb’n’flow. And Heather Knight has enforced the follow-on, so the Indian openers will soon be back out there, possibly feeling a little let down. Details here from Daniel Harris.


“In view of the weather forecast for the next few days,” says Martin Constantinides, “maybe the match should be relocated to the Millennium Dome?” Ha. I was there last month for The Brits. It’s true that there’s a roof and plenty of space, but the playing surface would be sheer concrete, so the Dukes might have to give way to a tape-ball. Could be fascinating.

“Thanks for posting my mail, Tim,” says Karl White (11:55). You’re just softening me up, aren’t you? “Yes, some of those names you list are great (Steyn in particular), but Morgan and Buttler in the pantheon? No, major no, real, serious major no, no, no. One-day flash Harries who occasionally turn it on. No.”

Ah, Karl – I thought that sort of starchiness had been swept away by the World Cup in 1996 (you could have added half the Sri Lankan team to your pantheon). Cricket is such a great game that all three of its main formats can be magnificent. The way Morgan revived a moribund England ODI side was phenomenal, and the way Buttler bats on a good day is one of the wonders of the sporting world.

“Alternative venue,” says Vince Barreto. “It’s 32 degrees here in Slovakia and no rain due for weeks... Suggest the match be played here instead. There aren’t any cricket grounds or even pitches, so would they fancy batting on the path in the local park?” Ha. I can picture one team complaining a bit more than the other.

On Sky, Ebony Rainford-Brent is calling this final now. “My money, I have to say, is on New Zealand.” She’s basing that on their new batting find Devon Conway, who “looks like a run machine”, and the bowlers – “Trent Boult, Southee, Jamieson who’s 6ft 8, Neil Wagner... Looking at their squad, I’m glad I’m not a selector.”

It’s true that both sides will be leaving out some high-class players. It makes you wish the WTC final could be more like the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race, and begin with a contest between both sides’ reserves. What with that and the plan for a Timeless Test, we’re looking at an entire month next time. That won’t be hard to schedule, will it?


“I just wanted to congratulate Robert Wilson [10:53] on a wonderful post,” says Karl White. “I also want to indulge in some shameless 90s nostalgia. I loved Tony Lewis and miss him greatly. He was like the avuncular uncle with that great shining smile of pristine teeth. It was a very sad day when he signed off the BBC’s coverage at the end of the 1998 Sri Lanka Test at the Oval.

“In spite of England’s mediocrity, the 90s was the last Golden Age of Test Cricket: Warne, Lara, Tendulkar, Waugh, Ambrose, Walsh, Murali et al. Proper cricket before the Slog Era began.” Discuss!

My guess is that we will one day look back on the 2010s as a golden age too. Kohli, Williamson, Steve Smith, Root, Stokes, Steyn and Philander, Anderson and Broad, Southee and Boult, Ashwin and Jadeja, Babar Azam, Younis Khan, Jason Holder, Sangakkara, Chanderpaul, the whole Indian squad, AB de Villiers, Rashid Khan, Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler... The 90s maybe have the edge in terms of all-time greats, but the 10s have more strength in depth, and breadth.

Back at the Ageas Bowl, Nasser Hussain is summing up the situation. “I’d love to cheer you all up and say it’s going to be bright and sunny this afternoon. It’s not. The super-sopper has been trying to do its work, but even the super-sopper looks like it’s had enough.”

By way of illustration, the camera homes in on a spectator sitting in an otherwise empty stand. It’s a grey-haired gentleman in a trenchcoat with a black-and-white golfing umbrella that has fallen forward over the seat in front, while he himself appears to have nodded off. As a bid to be the main picture on tomorrow’s cricket pages, it’s almost too good.

“Beckettian nature,” says Bill Hargreaves. “Waiting for Grandhomme. Thanks for keeping us entertained, Tim.” Bill, it’s a pleasure – and a two-way process. You’re so right, Beckett would have loved to watch de Grandhomme bowl, with his ability to make nothing happen.

In case anybody could do with a guide to this final, here’s one I prepared earlier.

In Bristol, Sophie Ecclestone has grabbed another LBW and India have now lost seven wickets for 20 after being 167-0. When in England, collapse as the English do.

A suggestion from Sakshi Kumar. “High time English grounds have a roof overhead :’)” Steady on, old boy.

In Bristol, England have taken a wicket with the first ball of the day – an LBW to Sophie Ecclestone, turned down on the field, three reds on review. They’ve had more drama in one ball than we look like getting all day.


“Now that they’ve added an extra day,” says Simon Layton, “why not two... or three? If this is really a World Test Championship, they should slog it out until kingdom come.” Yes, it would have been refreshing if they’d brought back the Timeless Test. Maybe they will next time, if this match ends in a sodden stalemate – but there’s a long way to go yet.

Play! Not here, but over in Bristol, where a fascinating women’s Test appears to be starting bang on time. Do join Daniel Harris if, unlike Robert Wilson, you prefer your cricket chat to come with some action attached.

A tweet comes in from New Zealand. “Well, the weather is a huge disappointment for us NZ fans,” says Treehut Architect. “Friday evening, snacks at hand, all set for a late night... and bleargh.” And there was I thinking it would make you feel at home.

“Rain days,” says Robert Wilson. “are all about attitude. I used to love them when I was a kid. And it was the last flurry of the Beckettian grandeur of the BBC that they used to broadcast them very nearly in full. Nary a pitchside anything, the ground would be filmed from inside the presenters’ poky little box, through rain-dotted glass or perspex. There would be some heartbroken already-seen highlights packages, a rota of mournful chats with defiantly untelegenic old players and all supervised by the terrified rictus of Tony Lewis’ extraordinarily uneasy smile as he regularly intoned ‘Well, it’s still raining.’ His tone DEFINITELY sounded like he was telling an Orphans’ Christmas Party that life was darkness, pain and inevitable lonely death, so eat up.

“I couldn’t get enough of it. I only put up with the actual cricket so as to occasionally catch the bleak wonder of rain days – though even I would struggle if they were at Edgbaston.”

Beckettian grandeur, bloody hell.


Convention dictates that if the toss is delayed, the teams are too – and most captains appreciate the extra time to study the skies and tinker with their bowling attack. Not Virat Kohli. In what was either a show of faith in his bowlers or an attempt to disconcert the Kiwis, he announced his starting XI yesterday:

India 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Shubman Gill, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Rishabh Pant (wkt), 7 Ravi Jadeja, 8 Ravichandran Ashwin, 9 Jasprit Bumrah, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Mohammed Shami.

If sports teams had sub-brands like soft drinks, this would be India Classic. All the big guns, none of the young guns bar Gill and Pant. The super-subs who played a big part in propelling India to this final are all back on the bench. No Mohammed Siraj, no Umesh Yadav, no Washington Sundar, no Axar Patel, no surprises.

The balance of the attack is classic too – three very different seamers and a complementary pair of spinners. The risk is that, with all this soggy weather, the spinners will be twiddling their thumbs rather than tweaking the ball. New Zealand have delayed naming their team and they may well go with four or even five seamers. On the other hand, this could be a low-scoring match, which means that Jadeja and Ashwin could earn their places with the bat, making a feisty 40.

The rain, meanwhile, “seems to be getting heavier,” says Isa Guha on Sky. It’s the kind of day when every camera has a drop of rain on it.


No play this morning

Well, that didn’t take long. The word from the ground is that the morning’s play has been abandoned and the toss delayed. The first session was due to run from 10.30am to 12.30pm, and there’s been no mention of an early lunch, so it seems as if the earliest that anything can happen is now 1.10pm. We’ll just have to amuse ourselves. If you feel like sending in an email, I’m all eyes.

Preamble: wet wet wet

Morning everyone and welcome to the contest we thought would never happen. You name it, the ICC World Test Championship has had to survive it – widespread inertia, general indifference, ludicrous intricacy, a worldwide pandemic, and being publicly pooh-poohed by the person ultimately responsible for it. Somehow the championship has made it through and produced two sparkling, deserving, contrasting finalists – India and New Zealand. Now it faces the ultimate challenge: the English weather.

When I checked the forecast for Southampton last night, the Met Office was saying 90 per cent rain for every single hour of today’s play. If that was even three-quarters right, today will be a wash-out. But the Rose Bowl is only about four miles from the sea, so the weather can change abruptly. And this Test, more than any other in modern times, can afford a few stoppages, as there’s a sixth day available if needed. The administatror who made that decision may be the only person feeling smug this morning.

While we’re waiting to see just how waterlogged the ground is, do read the ever-elegant Andy Bull looking at one strength that these two very different teams have in common – and that another nation we know finds more elusive.


Tim de Lisle (earlier) and Geoff Lemon (now)

The GuardianTramp

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