We are just one sleep away from the final showdown of the World Test Championship! India and New Zealand look all set for the greatest battle in the long format and the spirit in both camps hints at one heck of an outing!
Talking about preparation, India will be coming into the match following a four-day intra-squad match simulation whereas the Kiwis will land into the Ageas Bowl on the back of a series win against England and their recent escalation to the top spot in ICC Test Rankings.
There had been a lot of talks about the venue of the match. Ageas Bowl is one ground that the Indian team doesn't have many fond memories around. The lowest score of 178 that this ground at Southampton has witnessed belongs to India!
Having said that, India's recent performances against Australia and England have been top notch, winning 4 out of their last 5 Tests and losing just one.
The BlackCaps are not at all lagging behind in terms of form comparison. In fact, they haven't lost any in their last five assignments, winning equal number of matches as India and drawing one.
India have already confirmed their squad - Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill will be facing the new Duke ball. The middle order looks organised with the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant. Ravindra Jadeja will be the 7th man to fill the all-rounder slot, so that India can play three pacers - Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Md Shami - alongside Ravichandran Ashwin.
New Zealand are likely to give a chance to Devon Conway to open the innings after his impressive run against England. A lot of hope is being pinned on the experienced Ross Taylor. However, it is skipper Kane Williamson whose form might get them a tad worried. Williamson scored 13 and 1 respectively in the two innings of the first Test against England before being ruled out with an injury in the second.
Even though he averages 105.14 in Tests since 2020 but his consistency drops significantly while playing in away Tests. He averaged just 11.57 in 2019, playing away from home. His average against India (36.40) has not been that impressive as well.
Coming to the Indian skipper, Virat Kohli’s numbers aren't great either. November 2019 was the last time when Kohli scored a century in any format of the game. besides his 74 at Adelaide in 2020, Kohli has not scored more than 20 runs in any of the remaining 5 innings in away Tests since 2020.
India's overall performance in England has been a tale of struggle since the beginning of the last decade – 2010s. They have been tormented by the extra bit of swing that English turfs offer. There have been three tours by India in England since 2010 and they lost all 3 quite disastrously – 0-4 in 2011, 1-3 in 2014 and 1-4 in 2018.
Having said that, Southampton is a venue that does not assist pacers as much as other England venues do. And knowing Ashwin's record against the Kiwis, India can hope his magic to work this time too. He has dismissed Taylor thrice in 7 innings and Kane Williamson four times in 5 innings. Even cricket experts in recent times have insisted that India's world class spin attack will have a vital role to play if India are to win the championship.