New Zealand erased painful memories of the 2019 World Cup defeat by completing a near flawless victory over India in the World Test Championship final in Southampton on Wednesday.
There was heartbreak for the Black Caps at Lord’s two years ago when they lost the 50-over crown to England on the boundary count rule. Wednesday brought sweet redemption as the top-ranked Test and ODI team finally have a world title to show for their efforts as they chased down a victory target of 139 with eight wickets in hand.
Captain Kane Williamson steered the chase brilliantly, remaining unbeaten on 52 with Ross Taylor giving him company on 47.
“There was a lot of pressure, it was nice to be standing up to it,” Taylor said after the win. “The 2019 World Cup was something that was very tough for us at the time, but this makes up for that. Over time, it’ll sink in a little more.”
The sixth day of the match – a reserve day that was utilised to make up for lost time over the weekend due to rain – started with India on 64-2, leading by 32.
Any hopes India had of dictating the course of the final day, or even planning for a declaration, quickly evaporated as overnight batsmen Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara fell in a space of two overs with the scoreboard reading 72-4.
Burly all-rounder Kyle Jamieson was the thorn in India’s side once again as he followed his first-innings five-wicket and quickfire 21 with the scalps of Kohli and Pujara, both caught behind the stumps with away moving deliveries.
Ajinkya Rahane too failed with the bat, edging left-arm quick Trent Boult behind for 15 as India were staring down the barrel at 109-5 and the lead not even in three figures.
That India managed to reach a total of 170 and set a target of 139 was thanks largely to the carefree batting of wicketkeeper batsman Rishabh Pant. The left-handed batsman threw cation to the wind, employing ungainly swipes across the line to accumulate 41 off 88 balls.
It was unpleasant to watch but the runs came by, which at least gave the India attack something to bowl at.
India were 130-5 at lunch, a lead of 98 runs, with Pant 28 not out and fellow left-hander Ravindra Jadeja on 12.
Jadeja fell for 16 but Pant pressed on before a skied edge off Boult was caught by Henry Nicholls at point. Two balls later, India were 156-8 when Ravichandran Ashwin was well held by Taylor at first slip.
Pant’s innings only applied tape to the deep cracks of India’s batting. Veteran seamers Tim Southee (4-48) and Trent Boult (3-39) finished off the tail after Jamieson had done his job at the top, leaving New Zealand more than 50 overs to win the match.
The Kiwis started the chase on a confident note, handling everything the Indian seamers threw at them with assurance. However, spinner Ravichandran Ashwin set the cat among the pigeons when he had opener Tom Latham stumped and Devon Conway plumb lbw within a span of four overs to leave New Zealand on 44-2.
But Williamson and veteran batsman Taylor took matters into their own hands, surviving 31 dot balls in a row before hitting a flurry of boundaries to remove most of the pressure.
The Black Caps reached the target when Taylor smashed Mohammed Shami for a four to the square leg boundary.
Victory was just reward for New Zealand who have emerged as the top all-format team in the world. They entered the series on the back of a historic 1-0 Test win over England and had defeated India at home last year.
It was also their second major global cricket title after they beat India in the 2000 Champions Trophy one-day tournament in Kenya.
New Zealand thus took home the ICC Test mace and a winning prize of $1.6 million. India had to be content with $800,000 and memories of another failed attempt in a major final under the captaincy of Kohli.