And here’s the match report, from our man in Southampton, Ali Martin.
While Williamson was talking, his team were quietly collecting their winners’ medals. He is now presented with his by his vice-captain, Tom Latham, and then Williamson lifts the mace. It couldn’t happen to a more likeable sportsperson. What a great moment for what is now a great cricket nation: small, but perfectly formidable.
And that’s it from me. Thanks for your company and correspondence, and do join Tanya for this evening’s other OBO, covering England v Sri Lanka in Cardiff. To our New Zealand readers, huge congratulations – you’ve earned that. A spotless record on Covid, and the World Test Championship too: it’s a good time to be a Kiwi.
“We know we don’t always have the stars,” says Williamson, who is an undoubted star, albeit a reluctant one, “and we rely on a few other bits and pieces to try and stay in games and be competitive, and I think we saw that in this match – we saw a lot of commitment, to our group and the style of cricket. And we had to [do that], throughout all six days or whatever it was, it ebbed and flowed and no one got the upper hand until the end, which was good entertainment for the fans.”
Williamson himself was the lone batsman in the match to make a hundred runs, and he was out only once. Kyle Jamieson’s performance was more eye-catching, but a hundred runs are an even bigger achievement in these conditions than seven wickets. Williamson, though he wouldn’t dream of saying so, was robbed.
And here’s the winning captain, Kane Williamson. “Very special feeling,” he says, though, as ever, he has the air of a person treating those two impostors just the same. “Obviously a couple of close ones and nice to get one under the belt.” In no time, he’s thanking “Virat and the Indian team”. Asked if this is the biggest moment in New Zealand cricket history, he says it’s hard to say. Spoiler: it is.
“Big congratulations to Kane and his team,” says Virat Kohli, “for winning in what was really three days. Big credit to them for sticking to their processes long enough to put us under pressure. The Kiwi bowlers executed their plans to perfection today and we were 30 or 40 short.”
And the Player of the Match is ...
... Kyle Jamieson, for his 5-31 and 2-30. In only his eighth Test. Of the 488 bowlers in history who have taken 40 Test wickets or more, he has the third-best average, and the fourth-best strike rate.
“A World Test championship, with a final, is a great and long overdue idea,” says Simon Wilde of The Sunday Times on Twitter. “NZ are worthy and popular winners. But there is huge scope for improvement in the way it [the Championship] is run. And where the final is played (or finals, if it’s best of three) has a massive bearing on the outcome.” Yes, NZ got lucky with the venue, and with the weather over the six days – they couldn’t have been more at home. But that was a great leveller, giving David a decent shot at Goliath. And he didn’t miss.
India were the best Test team of the past two years, pulling off a fabulous victory in Australia, where New Zealand lost. But Kohli and co. weren’t quite good enough in this final. They were undercooked, whereas the New Zealanders had taken the trouble to warm up – by beating England on their own turf, the challenge India have to rise to in five weeks’ time.
Never mind the Kiwis, we have some other winners.
The British weather, which lulled us into a state of false exasperation and then saved its best for last, laying on a memorable sixth day.
The game of cricket – Test cricket, hard and tough and often slow and attritional, but somehow coming up with a fitting finale.
The Hampshire groundstaff, who had to deal with two weeks of drought followed by a monsoon. The pitch did favour the bowlers, but that’s far better than being biased towards the batsmen.
“I am so happy for NZ,” says Patrick Treacy. “For a country of relatively modest resources, so much has to be got right at many institutional and individual levels over an extended period to make an achievement such as this possible. I’m speaking as an Irishman, so I don’t think I qualify for condescension status.”
Ross Taylor is asked if he has a message for his kids. “Go to bed!” he says with a wry smile, the look of the moment. “They’ve probably been up all night.”
“Really enjoyed being a part of this group,” says Tim Southee. He reckons BJ Watling, who retires today, “has given everything to this team”. Asked if he’s going to take his shirt off and join the celebrations, Southee chuckles and murmurs that he’s going to enjoy a cold beer. What, not even a glass of sparkling white?
The New Zealand players are on the field, basking in the evening sunshine and in a phenomenal achievement. When this championship began, two years ago, nobody would have had them down as favourites. They’ve been superb – professional, skilful, organised and clear-thinking, with a full set of proper batsmen matched by an excellent hand of seam bowlers. They picked five of them for this final, which was probably one too many, but four of the five bowled them to a famous victory. In the end, they won the match by eight wickets – the comfiest of margins. This is, without question, the greatest day in New Zealand cricket history.
In the stands are a group of New Zealanders with no shirts on, singing “Cricket’s coming home”.
Just now, Mike Atherton called them a small gathering.
“In New Zealand,” said Simon Doull, “that’s a city.”
“In India,” said Dinesh Karthik, “that’s a family.”
International commentary at its best.
NEW ZEALAND WIN THE WORLD TEST CHAMPIONSHIP!
Ross Taylor whips Shami away for four, and that’s it! A nation of 5m people has beaten a nation of over a billion. And their two most prolific batsmen, Kane Williamson and Taylor, have seen them over the line. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved.
45th over: New Zealand 135-2 (Williamson 51, Taylor 43) If Taylor is tempted to hit a six, he’s not showing it. Facing Bumrah, who finishes Ishant’s over, he picks up two off a thick edge.
Trying to stop a straight drive off his own bowling, from Taylor. It looks like a dislocated finger. Ouch.
44th over: New Zealand 133-2 (Williamson 51, Taylor 41) Off comes Jadeja at last, and on comes ... Shami. Williamson, in one-day-chase mode now, whips him for two, then almost perishes, then pulls for four to reach fifty, only the second one of the whole match. NZ need just 6. One shot...?
Dropped! Williamson off Shami
Williamson skies it! And Bumrah, circling under it, can’t hold on. Kohli holds his face in his hands.
43rd over: New Zealand 125-2 (Williamson 43, Taylor 41) Ishant finds the edge too, but Taylor gets away with it and picks up three. Williamson, eager to dominate now, plays a delicious lofted flick off his toes for four, and cuts for three more. That’s ten off the over, so NZ need just 14. Maybe they want to watch that T20 game.
On Twitter, Same Guy Different Account is back for more. “So the Ashes is like what, a third place play-off at the World Cup? Meh.” The Ashes is the Ashes. It’ll still be huge – at least until England pick the wrong XI and the Aussies go 2-0 up.
42nd over: New Zealand 115-2 (Williamson 36, Taylor 38) It’s still Jadeja, and he finds Williamson’s inside edge again. But, as usual, there’s a good shot to follow – a lovely flowing on-drive, on the run, rolling away for four. Six more of those and NZ will be there, on top of the world.
41st over: New Zealand 111-2 (Williamson 32, Taylor 38) Now there is a change, but still no Ashwin: it’s Ishant, replacing Bumrah. Taylor tucks him away for two, then plays and misses at another jaffa. NZ need 28.
Meanwhile, in Britain if not in England, another international match is about to begin: England v Sri Lanka, the first T20 in Cardiff. Join Tanya Aldred here to see if Chris Woakes has finally got a game.
40th over: New Zealand 109-2 (Williamson 32, Taylor 36) Is Kohli in a sulk? He’s still persisting with Jadeja, the man least likely to take a wicket. NZ need only 30.
39th over: New Zealand 108-2 (Williamson 32, Taylor 35) Bumrah is still on, when Ashwin is surely more likely to take the quick six-for that India require. The first ball is a beauty, beating Williamson, but the last is a freebie, driven for four. NZ need only 31, and the sun is out, so for the moment the overs are immaterial.
38th over: New Zealand 104-2 (Williamson 28, Taylor 35) Jadeja is skidding it on with his arm ball and finding the inside edge of both these broad bats, but he’s also bowling no-balls, which India can’t afford. That’s drinks, with NZ well on top, needing just 35 now off 15 overs. Come on Virat, pull a rabbit out from under your cap.
37th over: New Zealand 100-2 (Williamson 26, Taylor 34) Bumrah to Taylor: another lifter, but this time he’s back and able to defuse it. When Bumrah strays down leg, Taylor flicks for four to bring up the hundred, but then he plays and misses outside off. India are still asking questions, but I can’t see them getting back into the game unless Kohli brings Ashwin on sharpish.
“Just time,” says Alistair Connor on Twitter, “for one last shot at defining a workable format for Test championship in England. Based on the fact that the days lost to rain in Southampton were pretty fair at Edgbaston or Old Trafford, for example, each day at stumps, the umpires look at the weather report and decide on which ground the match will resume on the following morning. Each team has a bus. Magical Mystery Tour.” Ha. To be fair, we’ve had worse rules in cricket.
36th over: New Zealand 96-2 (Williamson 26, Taylor 30) Now it’s Jadeja’s turn to make the batsmen think, as he turns one sharp as a leg-break and even Williamson, with all his skill, missed it by a mile. Seeing the need to grab the wheel again, Williamson sweeps, very fine, for four, to being up the fifty partnership – 52 off 18.2 overs, too slow at first, but then just right. NZ need 43 off 17 overs. Game off?
35th over: New Zealand 92-2 (Williamson 22, Taylor 30) Taylor nudges Bumrah for a canny two – nice deflection, as Bill Lawry used to say. And then Bumrah comes up with an extraordinary riposte, a lifter that rears off a length and hits Taylor square on the helmet. Where did that come from? He was playing forward! The physio trots on to do the checks but Taylor seems to be OK, smiling wrily as he takes a drink. NZ need 47 off 18 overs.
34th over: New Zealand 90-2 (Williamson 22, Taylor 28) Jadeja continues, and although he’s beaten the bat a few times, and both these batsmen are right-handers, I suspect they’d rather face him than Ashwin. Taylor glances the last ball for a single, so NZ need 49 off 19 overs.
33rd over: New Zealand 89-2 (Williamson 22, Taylor 27) Williamson suddenly decides it’s time to show any watching children how to play the cover drive. That was four from the moment he middled it, and it has reduced the target to 50. Bumrah, not to be deflated, gets one to hold its line, beating Williamson’s outside edge. It feels as if there are still some wickets to be had here.
32nd over: New Zealand 85-2 (Williamson 18, Taylor 27) Jadeja to Taylor, and that’s a maiden. NZ can afford it: they need 54 off 21 overs.
31st over: New Zealand 85-2 (Williamson 18, Taylor 27) That was a good bowling change from Kohli, and it very nearly worked. Did Pujara just drop the World Test Championship?
“My concession [19th over] is on the verge of being refreshed,” says Abhijato Sensarma, “so here are my nominees for Player of the Match. A: Williamson de Crown Jewels. B: Sir English Weather. C: Southampton Curator. D: Op T. Mism.” Ha. Can’t that last guy be called Op Tim Ism? We need all the Tims we can get.
Dropped! Taylor off Bumrah
A classic edge to first slip, but Pujara puts it down! “That was a very easy chance,” says Mike Atherton, “as slip catches go.”
30th over: New Zealand 84-2 (Williamson 18, Taylor 26) These two have ben so positive that Kohli is back to square one with just the one slip. Even with the field spread, Taylor manages to cut for three and Williamson for four. Jadeja recovers to turn one past Williamson’s outside edge, which is no mean feat, but NZ are cruising now. They need 55 off 23 overs and WinViz puts their chances at 96 per cent, to India’s 2.
29th over: New Zealand 77-2 (Williamson 14, Taylor 23) Ashwin was just changing ends, so Ishant comes off and we do have spin at both ends, after seeing none at all in either of India’s innings. It’s been a tale of two strategies. The batsmen, still looking to milk, take three singles, which is all they need to keep up with the rate: NZ need 62 off 24 overs.
28th over: New Zealand 74-2 (Williamson 13, Taylor 21) Kohli finally turns to Jadeja, but it’s instead of Ashwin, not as well as. Both batsmen look to milk him and he helps them out with a no-ball, but he’s soon in the groove, finding some turn and beating Taylor’s outside edge. The man with the tamper is on the pitch, tamping for England. NZ need 65 off 25 overs.
And now Rishabh Pant is leaving the field, apparently feeling unwell. His place behind the stumps is taken by the reserve keeper, Wriddiman Saha. Get well soon, Rishabh.
27th over: New Zealand 70-2 (Williamson 12, Taylor 19) Shami takes a breather, Ishant comes back, and the new, improved Taylor cuts him for four, before adding a single in the same direction. He’s gone from total inertia to a run a ball.
An email comes in from Colum Fordham. “The contest between Ashwin, the wiliest Test spinner in operation, and the vastly experienced Ross Taylor embodies the spirit of this World Test Cup,” he reckons. “It would be quite poetic and fitting if Williamson and Taylor were to take New Zealand over the line but India will not give in easily. A fitting finale.
“PS – sincerest apologies to the English weather as I sit typing in the stifling heat of Naples. You have helped create a brilliant Test match.”
26th over: New Zealand 65-2 (Williamson 12, Taylor 14) With that on-drive in Ashwin’s last over, Taylor persuaded Kohli to push mid-on back, so now there’s an easy single to be had there. NZ need 74 off 27 overs.
25th over: New Zealand 64-2 (Williamson 12, Taylor 13) Shami continues and now Williamson finds his feet too, dancing back and forcing past cover in the style of Joe Root. NZ need 75 off 28 overs, and CricViz now gives them a 91pc chance of a win. I’d put it at more like 70, simply because of the panic that pressure can induce, and the pattern of this match, where one has often brought three.
24th over: New Zealand 60-2 (Williamson 8, Taylor 13) Taylor is suddenly a different person. Hell, he even scores runs off Ashwin, on-driving for four, and then – after a close shave when he plays and misses one that’s perilously close to the off bail – off-driving for four more. NZ need 79 off 29 overs.
23rd over: New Zealand 52-2 (Williamson 8, Taylor 5) After struggling for 17 balls, Ross Taylor finally breaks free, riding the bounce to guide Shami for four. “Very good shot,” says Sunil Gavaskar. A table on the screen shows that Taylor is New Zealand’s all-time top scorer, and Williamson is second. In about two hours’ time, they may be living legends.
22nd over: New Zealand 46-2 (Williamson 8, Taylor 0) Taylor tries to use his wrists to work a single to leg off Ashwin, but again it’s just not there: “21 dots in a row,” says Isa Guha. “What a fascinating Test we’ve had.” She can say that again. And so to drinks, with India back in business and the required rate creeping up. NZ need 93 off 31 overs.
21st over: New Zealand 46-2 (Williamson 8, Taylor 0) There’s pressure in the air, and even cool heads can be scrambled by it. Williamson, facing Shami, pushes to leg and wants a single, but has to go into reverse sharpish when Taylor works out that it’s not on. At least the intent is there: they need to do something, because this partnership has already used up 22 balls and yielded only two runs.
20th over: New Zealand 46-2 (Williamson 8, Taylor 0) Ashwin now has four men round the bat, and rightly so. Taylor, propping forward, keeps him out but can’t get off the mark. Would anyone like to apologise to the English weather, without which we might well have missed out on this grandstand finish?
19th over: New Zealand 46-2 (Williamson 8, Taylor 0) Williamson plays another tuck off Shami and picks up another two. If anyone can impose calm here, he can.
“My concession is withdrawn,” says Abhijato Sensarma (11th over), “because the OBO has made me switch on my telly once more. Ashwin is lighting up this contest, isn’t he. Get two or three quick wickets and we’re back in this. Come on India, Gabba 2.0!! Or maybe not, but we won’t die wondering.” I’d say India were back in it already.
18th over: New Zealand 44-2 (Williamson 6, Taylor 0) So Conway departs, still on 73 for the match, which is worth about 140 in a normal Test. And Williamson is joined by Ross Taylor, his most experienced henchman. In the first innings, these two batted for 14 overs and added only 16. They need to do better than that now, to settle the nerves and change the mood.
Ravichandran Ashwin has 2-5 from five overs: champion stuff. But NZ are still favourites, with an 83pc chance according to CricViz, to India’s 14. NZ need 95 off 35 overs.
Wicket!! Conway LBW b Ashwin 19 (NZ 44-2)
This one is plumb: Ashwin’s arm ball, curling in, beating the inside edge of a crooked bat. Game very much on.
17th over: New Zealand 44-1 (Conway 19, Williamson 6) Again, Williamson’s response to adversity is to make some runs off the next ball, clipping Shami off his hip for two. With him and Conway out there, India are up against two mentality monsters.
Now Williamson is struck in the box by some late movement off the seam from Shami. A case of adding injury to insult.
16th over: New Zealand 42-1 (Conway 19, Williamson 4) The commentators have spotted that Pant had moved to his left, a clear hint. Williamson looked startled to see the finger go up, but he just had a drink, composed himself, and cut the next ball for three. Still, Ashwin is making things happen. Get Jadeja on too!
Going down! What a good review – and a rare blunder by Michael Gough. It was very full, it pitched on middle-and-leg, and it would have needed to be a leg-break to hit the stumps. That’s a big moment.
Williamson went for a sweep and missed it. It’s either umpire’s call or going down...
Wicket!? Williamson given lbw b Ashwin 1
15th over: New Zealand 39-1 (Conway 19, Williamson 1) The Indian fielders are stirring, showing some belief. When Conway takes a quick single off Bumrah, Ravi Jadeja throws down the stumps. But then, after Williamson gets going with a dab to point, Conway hooks for four. What a temperament this man has. He has 73 runs in the match, nine more than the next men (Rahane and Rohit), and the only person who can realistically;ly overtake him now is the bloke at the other end, who has 50.
14th over: New Zealand 33-1 (Conway 14, Williamson 0) Well bowled Ashwin. The Indian fans, who had gone awfully quiet, have now joined Pant in making some noise.
Wicket! Latham st Pant b Ashwin 9 (NZ 33-1)
The breakthrough! Ashwin sees Latham coming and floats the ball outside off, presenting Pant with an easy stumping. Game on – maybe.
13th over: New Zealand 33-0 (Conway 14, Latham 9) This has been a match of many threes, because of the slow outfield, and Latham helps himself to one with a punch through the covers. Bumrah is getting good pace and lift, but his line strays, to give away four leg byes, and then Conway goes one better than his mate with a cover punch for four.
A tweet from Same Guy Different Account. “I like to record good cricket questions for rained out days or nothing-happening evening sessions on the OBO, and I have two doozies right now, but this damned game is too exciting for sedate, lazy afternoon ponderings... when are England playing again...?” Half-past six.
12th over: New Zealand 22-0 (Conway 10, Latham 6) Are India beginning to believe? They’re certainly starting to chirp again. Ashwin doesn’t beat Conway in this over, but you’d think he had from all the noises made by Rishabh Pant behind the stumps. Another maiden.
11th over: New Zealand 22-0 (Conway 10, Latham 6) With the sun on his back, Bumrah is warming to the task. He beats Latham with a gorgeous ball that pitches on middle and jags away.
“The past half hour,” says Abhijato Sensarma, “has been rather depressing as an India fan. The Pant shot, then the non-swinging ball... The gig’s up for the Indian team, I suspect, even if they don’t show it on the field just yet. What a Test match it’s been the entire time – the most cricket-y this final could have gotten! Brilliant stuff, and NZ deserve this. Well played.” Very sporting, but maybe a touch too early to concede?
10th over: New Zealand 21-0 (Conway 10, Latham 6) At first Kohli gives Ashwin a slip but no other catcher. Shane Warne would approve, at one of his old stamping grounds – he always liked to settle in with a maiden or two, then step up the pressure. That doesn’t happen here, as Latham cuts for an easy single, and Conway matches him with a push off the pads. Now there’s a leg slip too, and Ashwin does draw a false shot as Latham goes down the track and almost gives a caught-and-bowled with a mistimed chip. Game on? Let’s hope so.
Here comes Ashwin, with two left-handers to bowl at. And plenty of rough.
9th over: New Zealand 19-0 (Conway 9, Latham 5) Bumrah is either in the channel or wide of off, and Conway either blocks or leaves accordingly. He’s sitting deep in his crease, unlike the Indian batsmen.
The Indians are out there and cuddling up for their second huddle in an hour. I do hope none of them have got Covid.
8th over: New Zealand 19-0 (Conway 9, Latham 5) Shami continues and he too gets the ball past the bat, seaming it away from Latham as, for once, he plays a millionaire’s drive. And then he does it again, with a real jaffa, to give India hope. That is tea, with this admirable New Zealand team needing another 120, and greatness beckoning to them. See you after a cuppa.
7th over: New Zealand 19-0 (Conway 9, Latham 5) We have a bowling change, but it’s not Ashwin yet – it’s Bumrah, given a chance to redeem himself after becoming the only specialist bowler in this match to go through a whole innings without taking a wicket. His run, as ever, is a few little steps, his arm made of Meccano, but his line is awry and Conway glances him for four. Bumrah bounces back and gets the ball past the bat, for the first time in this innings (I think) – more by lift than movement, but any moral victory will do for India.
6th over: New Zealand 14-0 (Conway 5, Latham 4) Shami dishes up solid line’n’length to Conway, who bides his time – and gets his reward off the last ball, as an attempted yorker turns into a half-volley. He thumps it down the ground and New Zealand need another 125.
“This is electrifying stuff,” says Guy Hornsby on Twitter. “Anyone that thinks T20 is better than this is dead on the inside.” Not better – they’re both great, at their best. “Does anyone know where I can get tickets for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Test? Can’t seem to find them anywhere.” Ha.
5th over: New Zealand 10-0 (Conway 1, Latham 4) Latham, facing Ishant, finally comes to the party with a fend for two through a big gap at gully. He likes it so much, he nurdles the next ball to square leg for two more. The Indian quicks haven’t made anything happen yet: how long will it be before Kohli turns to Ashwin?
4th over: New Zealand 5-0 (Conway 1, Latham 0) Latham has faced 16 balls without getting off the mark, which makes you wonder if he’s playing for a draw. But it’s OK because he gets a pad in the way of a rare freebie from Shami and picks up four leg byes. New Zealand are going to get ’em in extras.
Meanwhile here’s John Starbuck, picking up on the steepling catch that Henry Nicholls took with such aplomb [14:18]. “Not at Test level, but certainly in other cricket,” John writes, “I found my deafness was a huge disadvantage for sky-high catches. As I didn’t have any hearing-aids in at the time (too risky) I went for a high one and was shouting ‘Somebody call!’ – which they did but I didn’t hear it, nor did I catch it, having collided with another player so both of us were knocked out.” No! “Mind you, I was OK close to the wicket and took quite a few, because of having no time to think about it.” Sounds a bit like writing the OBO.
3rd over: New Zealand 1-0 (Conway 1, Latham 0) Ishant is on the spot, in the channel, keeping Conway quiet.
“In response to Ian Forth [71st over],” says Gavin Byrne, “Imran’s Pakistan was surely their greatest-ever side; drew a couple of series with Viv’s Windies (’87/’88 vintage, close to their best too).” Good call.
2nd over: New Zealand 1-0 (Conway 1, Latham 0) Kohli has demoted Jasprit Bumrah and handed the new ball to Mohammed Shami, India’s best bowler in the first innings. Devon Conway, who seems to have arrived in Test cricket as an instant senior player, has a plan: don’t get bogged down. He hooks the first ball, keeping it down but not getting it past square leg, and then tucks the second for a single. Latham, as a native-born Kiwi, is more cautious, leaving everything he can.
“What do you reckon, Tim?” says Alex Bramble. “I have a sneaking suspicion that even Joe Root and England’s house of cards of a top order might fancy a crack at this chase.” Ha, yes, even Dom Sibley might try to go at two an over.
1st over: New Zealand 0-0 (Conway 0, Latham 0) Under a gentle sun, Ishant Sharma gets the ball rolling, or seaming. Tom Latham, fresh from all those catches, starts his innings as if he’s been asked to show everyone what the word “compact” means.
The Indians are out there and in a huddle. Virat Kohli is making a speech, and the look in his eye is even more intense than usual. Woe betide anyone who fumbles the ball in the field.
New Zealand’s new superstar, Kyle Jamieson, was as exacting as ever, but the laurels went to the old firm. Tim Southee finished with 4 for 48, Trent Boult 3 for 39, and Neil Wagner (1 for 44) chipped in by breaking the vital partnership between Rishabh Pant and Ravi Jadeja. Colin de Grandhomme, the man who makes very little happen, wasn’t needed at all. And no Indian batsman made 50 in either innings, though Pant (41) deserved one for his fearless counter-attack. So New Zealand have what looks like a very manageable chase, 132 off about 45 overs. But India have the firepower, and the fighting spirit, to make them sweat.
Wicket! Bumrah c Latham b Southee 0 (India 170 all out)
Bumrah gets turned round by Southee and that’s yet another catch for Latham, now back at second slip So India have lost four for 14 in 22 balls, and New Zealand need 139 to win the World Test Championship.
Wicket! Shami c Latham b Southee 13 (India 170-9)
Another one! Shami slices Southee over the slips for four, so Williamson posts a fly slip, 20 yards in from the rope. Shami plays the same shot again next ball and sends the ball straight into the safe hands of Tom Latham. The lead is 138 and the New Zealanders are on fire.
72nd over: India 166-8 (Shami 9, Ishant 1) Ishant gets off the mark too, nudging Boult off his hip. Later in the over, after a single from Shami, Ishant pops a simple chance to short leg – but the man is 10 yards back, so he gets away with it. This is gripping stuff. India lead by 134 with about four hours to go.
71st over: India 164-8 (Shami 8, Ishant 0) The question now is whether India’s three fast bowlers can eke out enough runs to give themselves something to play with. My guess is that they needed at least another 40 when these two batsmen came together. Mohammed Shami, facing Southee, gets 20 per cent of those in two shots: a cut and a pull. Has he chosen the perfect moment to become an all-rounder?
“This is proving a great contest,” says Ian Forth, “not least because it’s been two nations fielding (possibly arguably in the case of India) their greatest-ever sides. It’s extremely hard to think of another year in Test match history when that would have been close to being the case. Close (but not that close) in recent history to England v South Africa ten years ago and Australia v West Indies around 1993 perhaps. Any other contenders, barring the first few years of Test cricket, of course?”
70th over: India 156-8 (Shami 0, Ishant 0) I hadn’t even had time to say thanks Adam and afternoon everyone before a wicket fell – and then another. So Boult returns with a double-wicket maiden, and the New Zealanders can smell victory now.
Wicket! Ashwin c Taylor b Boult 7 (India 156-8)
One brings two! Boult dishes up what looks like a rare bad ball, a wide half-volley – but Ashwin chases it and presents a nice thick nick to Ross Taylor at first slip. India lead by 124 and that’s their last decent batsman gone.
And on that note, with drinks on the field, I’ll say goodbye. What wonderful Test cricket. Thanks for your company. For now, I’m heading down the road for a Covid jab! But I’ll be following the rest of the action with Tim de Lisle - I suggest you do likewise. Bye!
WICKET! Pant c Nicholls b Boult 41 (India 156-7)
What a bowling change! Boult’s done it with his second ball back into the attack! Pant was unable to help himself on the charge, a fat top edge heading over the head of Nicholls at backward point. And what a catch, running back with the flight, taking it over his left shoulder! That could, and really should, be the defining moment.
WICKET!!! Pant c Nicholls b Boult 41 (India 156-7)
A huge moment. Pant dances down the track, lifts the ball into the south-coast sky, and has to watch as Nicholl, running out from gully with time to mess up, judges the catch beautifully. Live by the slog, die by the slog.
69th over: India 156-6 (Pant 41, Ashwin 7) I’ve got Williamson’s ear: it is Tim Southee to replace Neil Wagner, who put in a mighty shift either side of lunch. Pant’s first signs of hyperaggression before lunch were against Southee in the over after he put him down at second slip. But he’s happy enough in watchful mode here with 59 overs still to come in this Test. Loads of time. The lead is 123.
“Hello Adam.” Andrew Benton, I’m sure you’re enjoying this. “Caught by a man with a dislocated finger - what’s the most disadvantaged a successful catcher has been in test cricket? Fallen-out contact lenses? Toupee in front of face? Choking on some gum?”
I’ll throw that open for Tim de Lisle’s stint. He’ll be here shortly.
68th over: India 155-6 (Pant 40, Ashwin 7) Jamieson to Pant, who is playing him with respect. How is he setting this up? Waiting for Southee and Boult before turning up the volume again? Waiting until Ashwin plays himself in? As I type, he takes on the short ball, albeit with a controlled hook to deep square to retain the strike.
67th over: India 154-6 (Pant 39, Ashwin 7) Wagner persists, the 11th over of this spell. The runs are starting to come from him a fraction more easily, but he’s still a threat with every ball. Pant retains the strike with a full-blooded pull, to the deep midwicket sweeper. Time to give him a rest, I reckon. Time for your NZ’s banker, Tim Southee.
“It’s been a pleasure to follow this OBO with you on the comms, Adam.” Love to you have you with us, Abhijato Sensarma, and everyone else who has dropped by for the ride. “Most experts hadn’t given this match a chance for a positive result - but there’s something about sports that demands optimism. In the face of both life and bad light, I suppose, there’s nothing but hope that carries us forward. I don’t intent to be overly sentimental, but ah, haven’t these six days been a joyful for cricket fans? All four results still on.”
I called a tie in the preamble yesterday and I’m not giving up on it!
66th over: India 147-6 (Pant 36, Ashwin 3) Jamieson to Ashwin, the latter still looking to score - at no point today has it looked like India are keen to hang around and save this until the point when they have no choice to accept that reality. Along the way he’s beaten again by Jamieson, another beaut of an outswinger.
“Hi Adam.” Hello, Richard Hirst. “Two top class, disciplined sides is definitely the way forward.” I agree. Can they stay all summer?
65th over: India 147-6 (Pant 36, Ashwin 3) Wagner, short. Pant, pulls. For one. Ashwin is taking him on too! Over backward square, gets a couple. There’s a field change, Williamson into square leg, and that’s exactly where the next ball goes - just over the captain’s head. On telly, they show that Jamieson was in this position until earlier in the over... he might’ve reached that! Deary me. The lead is 115.
“I suppose the turning point in this match may be deemed to be the moment when Southee dropped Pant off Jamieson,” suggests Colum Fordham. “On the other hand, Pant’s flamboyance and carefree/careless approach to batting means that India will be able to set New Zealand a target and that will make for a fascinating finale. Will the Kiwis go for it or dig in? I suspect the former.”
The very fact that we can’t get a definitive read on this hour to hour (over to over!) reinforces why Test cricket is a magnificent beast.
64th over: India 143-6 (Pant 35, Ashwin 0) A word for Watling who, as Athers notes on telly, is doing this tough job with a dislocated finger. Sure, it was one of the easiest catches of his long career but if that hits the wrong part of his glove, it could easily bobble out. Jamieson now, to Pant, who takes the single on offer to midwicket - nothing unorthodox about his approach after losing Jadeja... yet. Ooh, and Jamieson goes very full to Ashwin with a hooping outswinger, ever so close to kissing the outside edge. The new man shoulders arms to finish, a ball right in the corridor of uncertainty.
63rd over: India 142-6 (Pant 34, Ashwin 0) The wicket maiden is complete with Ashwin defending the one Wagner ball he has to negotiate. Now, back to Pant. Does he take it to yet another gear, backing himself to pile on quick runs? The lead is 110. Riveting!
WICKET! Jadeja c Watling b Wagner 16 (India 142-6)
Thrilling, disciplined, brilliant cricket from Wagner! So much short stuff from the left-armer around the wicket; so much patience from Jadeja. But on this occasion, a fraction fuller, he plays when he doesn’t need to, and the feather lands in the safe gloves of Watling.
62nd over: India 142-5 (Pant 34, Jadeja 16) Ohh, is that a missed run out? Pant takes a quick single and Conway races around from cover, kicking at the non-strikers’ stumps. It isn’t far away... and it would have been out! Did he have enough time to bend down and flick from there? I suppose it’s all down to instinct in those moments. Jadeja continues to leave well before getting one in his half, celebrated by getting into the front foot to drive through cover point with control for three. That takes the lead to 110 with the partnership 33.
61st over: India 138-5 (Pant 33, Jadeja 13) Outrageous from Pant, busting out a switch hit to start Wagner’s new over from round the wicket, eventually helping it safety to third man for one. In at Jadeja’s body again and so close to landing back on his stumps after hitting a combination of thigh pad and inside edge. Another nasty short ball follows, Jadeja able to get his body out of the line of fire. And again - this is relentless - and it does sting him on the torso, landing with Nicholls at short leg. I hope he has a rib guard on.
60th over: India 137-5 (Pant 32, Jadeja 14) So close! The fuller Jamieson has been in this Test the more dangerous he’s looked, which is the case here to Jadeja from over the wicket, angling across and swinging back, beating the inside edge before going just over off-stump. The sort of ball that deserves a wicket. They go again.
59th over: India 137-5 (Pant 32, Jadeja 14) Ignore what I said about Pant maybe going conventional for a while - he’s just tried to scoop Wagner. They take a bye, Watling missing the ball after all that activity. Short to Jadeja, happy to play one then wear one. Gritty.
“Hi Adam.” Allo, Rachit Gupta. “Maybe a bit harsh to carp on NZ and Kane Williamson’s tactics; but to see Wagner bowl down the legside to both left handers and no slip in place and a packed legside field; do seem like overly negative tactics this early on in the game. Maybe that’s a hat tip to the way Pant has gone about this innings! What a fantastic end to the game we are in for!”
That’s why Wagner v Pant is so addictive, with both players ignoring convention to such an extent that they can’t be assessed normally.
58th over: India 134-5 (Pant 32, Jadeja 12) They’re handling Jamieson well after lunch, Pant, after that wild swing to begin, playing him from the crease then driving a couple through cover. Good batting.
57th over: India 132-5 (Pant 30, Jadeja 12) Confirmation on TV that BJ Watling has dislocated the ring finger on his right hand, but he’s not giving up those gloves on this the final day of his Test career. Wagner around the wicket, short or short of a length, not giving Pant the chance to dance but he does jump across his stumps to take a single. Jadeja’s turn, and he does well to get in behind it on the backfoot then to avoid the follow-up, trained on his ribs.
56th over: India 131-5 (Pant 29, Jadeja 12) Hooley dooley, second ball after the break and Pant is again on the charge with a view to depositing the ball over the midwicket rope and again missing it after a gigantic swing. If he feathers that through to Watling, India are staring down the barrel. “There’s a fine line between carefree and careless,” says Sunny Gavaskar on TV - almost certainly the first time I’ve quoted him on the OBO, but he’s right. On the other hand, maybe the decision has been made that he will push and push with a declaration in mind. What a fascinating passage this should be.
The players are back. Kyle Jamieson, the floor is yours. He broke up the crucial partnership of the morning session, can he do likewise after lunch? Pant (28) is on strike with India leading by 98. PLAY!
“What would I be comfortable chasing?” asks Ayan. “160 or thereabouts if I have 60 overs. India would be pleased with a lead of 180 plus if they can manage it in another 23 overs. I think Kane Williamson must not fall into the defensive trap. They must remain calm but aggressive in their approach and hostile with their bowling. If NZ tries to save runs they will concede regular easy singles mixed with sporadic boundaries initially before they concede 40 odd runs in the last five overs if India gets into a declaration zone. They must think of wickets. If Indians have a weakness it’s in preserving their wickets. Get them out in another 30 runs. Go bat and win should be the aim, basically. In out field is an option later if India starts to become threatening later on.”
Quick maths. If they bat for 21 overs, that leaves 50 for the chase. That might leave them 180 odd. I reckon they’d have a dip at that.
“Will we actually get 73 overs?” asks Andrew Harrison. And not unreasonably. “Is there a cut-off time? Tell me the game won’t be perfectly poised in beautiful light, only to finish before the overs are bowled.”
My understanding is that there is no cut off on the final day, so they will need to bowl them. However, if we get beyond 7pm, it might be that bad light has a say. On the other hand, it’s a belter of an afternoon at the best time of the year to play until relatively late.
“Do you think India will survive until the new ball is taken?” asks Alexio Berejena. “I don’t see that happening. Maybe the ‘new’ ball will determine how India are going to defend their total. India might be 5 down but effectively they are 7 or 8 down I have seen bowlers going out without troubling the scorers. As a Zimbabwean who supports Virat Kohli and sympathises with KW, I would love to see a winner in this fascinating match with NZ chasing around 150.
All roads lead back to the incumbent pair. If one (or both) are around at over 81, then it’s New Zealand who are going to struggle to conjure a result. Indeed, if both are around, the second new ball might be the time they start to really go for it and open up a declaration.
“This is a masterclass from the precociously daring Pant and Jadeja,” says Ladka Lal. “150 and India are safe as NZ can’t chase it. Almost like the women’s test, this.” Might need a few more than 150, but you’re right about the two left-handers. If they’re there together for another hour after the lunch break, this might quickly drift.
Thanks, Will. And I share your optimism. Twists to come.
LUNCH: India 130-5
55th over: India 130-5 (Pant 28, Jadeja 12) Pant gets himself off strike first ball of the final over before lunch. How will Jadeja handle this from Wagner? The short ball comes, bang on target at his ribs, and he’s nearly popped it to Nicholls at short leg! Wagner around the wicket to finish bangs it in again and he wears it on the body. Gutsy batting to end another captivating session. New Zealand’s morning - picking up Kohli, Pujara and Rahane - was a fine one, but they did put down Pant in single-digits. The lead is 98 and this World Test Championship Final is still alive with 73 overs still to come. I’m going to grab some food and think about what we’ve just watched over the last couple of hours. How are you seeing it? Back shortly.
54th over: India 129-5 (Pant 27, Jadeja 12) A couple of singles eased square of the wicket early in the over off Boult before he nails his line and length to Jadeja, who keeps out a pair of handy inswingers. The second new ball might be a factor in the middle session but this Dukes is still doing plenty for the New Zealand seamers.
53rd over: India 127-5 (Pant 25, Jadeja 11) Fabulous batting from Jadeja, getting the strike early in the over then timing Wagner through midwicket, all the way along the ground for four. “You’ve got to control your emotions now,” says Nasser of Kane Williamson, with the Indian crowd alive to the possibilities that exist with Pant and Jadeja striking the ball well. “You can’t search for wickets. Stick with the discipline that has got you to this place right now.” Nearly a mix-up - yes, no - Jadeja to the danger end, Williamson’s throw off target to the extent that Watling has hurt a finger on his right hand. Out come the medical staff to see just how much damage he’s done, but with this being his final day in Test cricket, there’s no way he’ll leave the field, and he doesn’t. More sketchy running after the re-start, Jadeja slamming a square drive to point, a direct hit into his stumps from Devon Conway. But the TV umpire confirms that he’s back. Yet another eventful over, this fiinal has plenty of life in it yet.
52nd over: India 121-5 (Pant 25, Jadeja 6) Shot! Boult drifts onto Jadeja’s pads and he wants all of it, lifting through square leg for four. Boult follows up with a short ball, which he sways under. 13 minutes until lunch - that’ll be three overs, with Wagner’s final chance at Pant before the break coming up next. The lead is 89.
51st over: India 116-5 (Pant 24, Jadeja 2) So, New Zealand burn that review. Wagner is straight back to it, with another outswinger to Panrt, but, sure enough, he turns it through midwicket for two. And here’s the bouncer! The first we’ve seen from him today. Pant takes it on, an inside edge spitting into the onside. Jadeja’s turn and he’s beaten on the inside edge by a bit of extra pace before getting over the top of the final delivery, driving it through cover for two. It is, my friends, all happening in this World Test Championship Final.
NOT OUT! Missed leg by some way. I can see what they were thinking, with Pant moving so much before the ball is sent down at the moment, but the decision from Michael Gough was correct.
IS PANT LBW? New Zealand are sending it upstairs! The ball before, Pant tried to hit Wagner out of Southampton after charging at him once again, but the yorker followed, which he also missed. Stand by!
WICKET! Rahane c Watling b Boult 15 (India 109-5)
Tickled down the legside! Off the glove, easily taken by Watling! Against the trend of the over, just when Rahane just looked to be going through the gears with a powerful cut for four, but that doesn’t count for much now. New Zealand are halfway there.
50th over: India 109-5 (Pant 21)
49th over: India 103-4 (Rahane 9, Pant 21) Of course he will! Pant charges at Wagner, the swing is there away from the left-hander though, and instead of blasting him through cover it takes off from the edge through about fourth slip for four more. And he goes again! An identical charge, this time a swing and a miss. He stays at home for the next ball that shapes away beautifully past the outside edge. “Wagner has got to hold his nerve here,” says Athers. Quite right.
48th over: India 99-4 (Rahane 9, Pant 17) Boult through Rahane’s inside egde! Looking to flay the left-armer through cover, his feet weren’t quite there and thus, nor his blade. Ooh, now he’s past the outside edge with the one that goes the other way - a gorgeous left-armers’ angle, hitting the seam after making him play. And back towards the pads with swing to finish, locating the inside edge. India are hanging in there, they lead by 67. Will Pant now counterattack?
47th over: India 97-4 (Rahane 7, Pant 17) No inch given, Wagner again finding Pant’s inside edge but resisting the temptation to bang it in short - for now. This scrap could determine the entire match.
46th over: India 97-4 (Rahane 7, Pant 17) Boult replaces Jamieson, after being overlooked to start the day. He’s been short of his best on this tour but nobody doubts his ability to have a big say on this final day. And sheesh, look at that bounce, flying over Rahane’s horizontal bat. Lovely stuff. He goes shorter again next up, the vice-captain equal to it, pulling a single to square leg. Pant is looking to score again to finish, retaining the strike behing square. So, straight back to his stoush against Wagner to start the next set. Good times.
“Tickle me sideways,” emails Abhijato Sensarma. “The Pujara and Kohli dismissals eliminate the chances of a draw. These two - and the rest of the batters to follow - will be batting for runs, not survival. Pant and Rahane will surely push up the run rate for as long as they’re in the middle. NZ are going to chase an intriguing total...”
Quite possibly. On the other hand, if Pant can put a gap in New Zealand for an hour, it will give India the ability to wind it right back after lunch if they see fit to do so. Pant gives them those options. According to WinViz, New Zealand are up to 29% with India at 7%.
45th over: India 95-4 (Rahane 6, Pant 16) Neil Wagner is into the attack for the first time today and that means action! Pant, as if foretold, steps down the track at the southpaw’s third delivery with a view to putting him over long-on for six... instead, the fat top edge flies over the cordon for four. To finish, a fuller off-cutter that finds his inside edge - not far away at all. Wagner stares, then smiles.
“Adam.” John Starbuck. “It should have been written into the pre-match Ts & Cs that, in the event of a tie or draw, the sides will hold the Mace for an equal time each, until the next World Championship Final. To settle who takes it first, the captains shall play Rock Paper Scissors OR Grabbies, going up the staff with the loser grasping thin air. The Fourth Umpire shall be the moderator.”
A pal of mine from when I went to school in America made it to the world (?) champs of rock/paper/scissor, shown on EPSN! Needless to say, there’s more to the decision-making than meets the eye.
44th over: India 89-4 (Rahane 5, Pant 11) Jamieson will continue after drinks - one more big push at Rahane, still getting nice movement away from the right-hander. “Close to the perfect hour,” says Craig McMillan on TV. The Indian vice-captain plays carefully throughout, defending with soft hands when his bat is required.
Alistair Connor is grumpy that England has been the host for this game. “The simplest way to determine the venue is for the defending champion to host, like the Americas Cup. That would avoid future washouts (unless England should win one day) and would ensure that it would be hosted in Auckland as often as not… like the Americas Cup.”
Very good. I don’t mind England has the permanent venue as I believe the contest between bat and ball here is about as good as it gets. But I’d be making this a timeless fixture next time around.
43rd over: India 89-4 (Rahane 5, Pant 11) Here comes the Pant counterattack! After being dropped, it was inevitable that he was going to try and transfer the pressure back onto Southee, and he does so here with a shimmy and an on-drive, down to the rope in a flash. A positive way to go to drinks after losing both incumbents in the space of two brilliant Jamieson overs earlier in the session.
“Hang on!” says Tom Morgan after predicting a stoic draw in his earlier email. “Hold that thought for a second? Kohli’s out. Test cricket eh? Building to a crescendo over six days. You’d need an entire football tournament to get the kind of slow-burn excitement build up.”
Or we could go the cricket way: reduce the teams, extend the length of the tournament. In fairness, the ICC have finally gotten back on the right track with this, extending the men’s 50-over World Cup to 14 teams from 2027 - and using the right format (from 2003) too.
42nd over: India 85-4 (Rahane 5, Pant 7) Jamieson to Rahane - perhaps the final over of his spell? There’s nothing wrong with it at all, but he’s lost just a fraction of a yard after bowling for an hour.
“I say Clutch Cargo,” writes Tanya Wintringham of the fictional athlete Jamieson reminds her of. “Granite-jawed American cartoon character from the 1950s, who goes on adventures with his ward named Spinner! Thanks for the great job on the OBO Adam - I see a night of zero sleep on my horizon.”
You cannot go to sleep tonight if you’re in New Zealand. It’s the law.
41st over: India 85-4 (Rahane 5, Pant 7) Southee has such an important role to play with the ball, he has to remove that missed chance from his mind. On the other hand, Pant will know he has a chance to punch the bruise. Ooh, and he tries to here, almost charging at the attack-leader, but he’s beaten. Next up, he stays at home to take a couple from leg stump - better. The lead is 53.
40th over: India 82-4 (Rahane 4, Pant 5) Well played, Rahane off the mark with a solid punch through cover, adding two more with a couple behind point. The effort ball from Jamieson, past Rahane’s inside edge and onto the pad, a half-hearted appeal... turned down. No review. Dropped catch to finish! Pant has been put down by Southee at second slip. Moving across to his right just a touch but that was conventional - in and out. Almost a replica of how Pant was dismissed by Jamieson the first time around. Oh dear.
And here’s Pujara’s downfall.
39th over: India 77-4 (Rahane 0, Pant 5) Pant cutting hard and well, Southee feeding one of the left-hander’s best shots - his first four. India’s lead is just 47 with 89 overs (in theory) still remaining today.
“Love Izzy Westbury’s splendid reimagining of Jamieson and Williamson,” writes Brian Withington. “Is the latter holding a well thumbed copy of Das Kapital, or the next 5 year plan for world domination?”
For now, New Zealand have a five-hour plan. This is their big chance - they may only get one - so they have to make it count.
38th over: India 73-4 (Rahane 0, Pant 1) Two men, yet to get off the mark, up against a world-beating Jamieson. Pant gets off the mark with a quick single in front of point, completing the run with a tumble. Rahane does as he must to see out the successful over.
Here’s that Kohli wicket, the first of two to fall this morning.
WICKET! Pujara c Taylor b Jamieson 15 (India 72-4)
Jamieson is on fire and India are in real strife! Pujara, the rock, plays a ball he was hoping to leave until the last moment, steering it into the safe hands of Ross Taylor at first slip. Here come the Blackcaps!
37th over: India 72-3 (Pujara 15, Rahane 0) Southee continues after the breakthrough, Pujara into his groove of leaving and defending - no funny business from India’s No3 with with a hole to get out of.
36th over: India 71-3 (Pujara 14, Rahane 0) And what a set-up from Jamieson. He beat Kohli with a pair of beauties in his previous over, then nipped back towards him to start this fresh over, beating his inside edge - the appeal for leg before turned down on the basis of height. The response to that, to hang one out there outside the off-stump, was perfectly timed with India’s captain in two minds. What a spell of bowling and what a magnificent final he is having.
“These two excellent sides will draw because the bowlers won’t give away cheap runs and the batters won’t crumble,” says Tom Morgan,. “I would not rate England’s chances in the same situation. Sad that.”
Yes, the degree of difficulty has been very high for batsmen in this game, which doesn’t auger well for England against India.
WICKET! Kohli c Watling b Jamieson 13 (India 71-3)
Jamieson finds Kohli’s edge! Fending off the back foot, it’s safely through to Watling on his final day in Test cricket. The big quick gets him twice in the match, which opens up now for New Zealand.
35th over: India 71-2 (Pujara 14, Kohli 13) Southee gets his first proper look at Pujara for the morning, sticking outside the off stump early in the set. Back towards the stumps, Pujara gets well forward to defend, which prompts Williamson to change the field and pop Nicholls into silly mid-on. Not short leg, silly mid-on. Unorthodox; I like it. Southee goes outswinger/inswinger to finish. Good cricket.
34th over: India 71-2 (Pujara 14, Kohli 13) A genuine outswinger, a genuine play and miss. Superb from Jamieson to Kohli. Plenty of bounce, too. Ohh, and he repeats the dose to finish. The big boy is on.
33rd over: India 70-2 (Pujara 13, Kohli 13) After thrice leaving, Kohli leans into Southee outside the off-stump, placing him behind point for a couple. Two more outswingers to finish, both left alone. Interesting approach, perhaps trying to starve Kohli of the chance to get bat on ball early in the day. Cat and mouse.
32nd over: India 68-2 (Pujara 13, Kohli 11) Jamieson, who was a handful last night without getting into the book, gets the first crack here with the ball still relatively new in Dukes terms. And it’s a very good start to Pujara, forcing him to play more often than he is able to shoulder arms from a nice, full length. Maiden.
“And for the last time...” writes Tanya Wintringham, also from New Zealand “…let’s go! Feeling optimistic for a result - unclear as to why I am so positive, maybe it’s the sight of the sun. Bring on Wagner!”
I like the way you’re thinking. We saw what a menace Wagner can be in the second innings against England at Edgbaston last week.
31st over: India 68-2 (Pujara 13, Kohli 11) Two slips, a gully and a catching cover for Kohli to begin. As Simon Doull notes, he could have sent a nightwatchman in last night, but wanted to be there to make the very most of the fresh morning. To begin, Southee is right where he needs to be with the Indian supremo solid in defence, the first runs of the day then coming with a tidy clip through midwicket for three. Pujara’s turn, a man who knows all about final-day heroics, even if his first objective will be different to his captain’s. And he keeps the strike with a single, also to midwicket. Good start.
“Evening (morning), Adam!” Hello to Aidan McDonald, coming to us from New Zealand. “Thanks for the coverage. It’s still anyone’s game, odds be damned! These are two teams who would rather win than draw, and they both have the potential to do something dominant. If we can’t bowl India out cheaply and early, then it would be on them to make a sporting declaration. Kohli doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who wants to share a trophy.”
The noises from the Indian camp are certainly positive, likewise the fact that in that opening over, both batsmen were looking to score.
The players are on the way to the middle! Here we go, Kohli and Pujara. “Today is about runs,” says Nasser. “And nobody gets them better than Virat Kohli. If he gets to lunch, their lead will be substantial.” Tim Southee to start for the Black Caps. PLAY!
Tim Southee is talking to Nasser Hussain. “I think India threw everything at us and put us under pressure so to get a bit of a lead was pleasing, as it was to get two of their key batsmen early on. It sets it up for a big hour this morning.” On his inswinger, so potent last night in collecting both of those wickets, he says he brings it out based on “gut feel” before running in. What a bowler he’s become.
The TV broadcast has started. And yes, it’s a lovely morning at Southampton. They have the mace with them for the opening. “I’m in awe with how sparkly it is,” says Craig McMillan. I’m still keen to work out how Kohli and Williamson will hold it up together - who gets the stick, who gets the ball? Anyway, a good chance we’ll find out later. “India will play the first hour safely,” says Dinesh Karthik, but he believes Pant and Jadeja might be elevated after that. It’s encouraging that a man close to the camp believes India could really make a game of it. Might they declare? “A few things need to go their way, and then some good batting... but then, definitely.” Go on!
“Good morning!” And to you, Abhijato Sensarma. “Virat Kohli hits his first international century in 18 months. Rishabh Pant scores the fastest 50 in Test history. Cheteshwar Pujara bats at a SR above 50 himself. Alternatively, Trent Boult rediscovers his rhythm to rip through India in the first hour. Neil Wagner decides he wants a five-fer for once. Or maybe, Kane Williamson rolls his arm and ecks out a hat-trick. We’re probably going to witness a draw today, but if we get anywhere close to a result, it’s going to be bloody brilliant.”
I always enjoy your optimism, young man. I’ll take all of this.
It’s a belter of a day, by the way. From Ali Martin, our man at the ground: “It’s a glorious, magical morning on the south coast, with blue skies overhead and smiles on the faces of everyone driving along the M3.” In theory, 98 overs are available on this final day.
These ICC montage/recaps are very good. Here’s day five.
At this time yesterday, in a fit of optimism as it rained at the Rose Bowl, I drummed up a hypothetical where the World Test Championship was tied from the final ball of the sixth day. Sure, fantasty stuff. But the point I was making was that there was enough time for both sides to win - albeit just. Everything needed to sequence just right with so few overs left in the match.
In my little scenario, India would be 200/5 coming into the final day, having knocked off New Zealand for exactly 217 - something like that. Instead, they are 64/2 coming into this sixth morning, some 32 runs in the lead. But here’s the familiar kicker: of the 91 overs scheduled for yesterday, just 80.3 were delivered. Ten were burned.
I’m mindful how boring it is to bang on about over rates all the time - I’d rather this never came up again. But a day like yesterday, in a match where time is so scarce due to the two days lost to rain, reinforces the extent to which the current system does not work.
Crude as it is, consider where India might be as the resumption today had they been able to face a further ten overs before the close last night? Because they only bowled 23 in the first session of the fifth day, that was never going to happen. Equally, how many more wickets the Black Caps might’ve taken had they bowled 38 in the extended final session (the expectation) rather than 30?
So, due to this tardiness, both sides are less likely again to force a result today, the draw - according to CricViz - in the box seat at a probability of 73%, which feels about right to me.
There’s only one solution here: in-play sanctions. In other words: penalty runs. We’ve seen how that has served as a potent price signal in the T20 Blast in England, and there’s no reason to think it wouldn’t do a lot more at international level than fines. It’s hard to imagine any player in this final is going to notice the 20 per cent of the match fee they are likely to lose for yesterday.
Alright, that’s the last I’ll say on the matter for the time being as I don’t want to derail the conversation on what still could be a classic finish, however challenging. It was only January when this Indian side stunned the world from a similarly unlikely position at the Gabba, and with Kohli at the crease (and Pant to come) there is a world where they put the foot down and chance their hand.
Likewise, with the ball still moving around - and Tim Southee bowling like a dream - this slick New Zealand seam quartet might get busy in the first hour and open the game up their way. The key will be not to snatch at it - they could afford to take 40/45 overs to take the remaining eight wickets and still mount a realistic chase.
We should be so lucky. I’m looking forward to your company.