Greg Chappell's suggestions too tough to execute: Cricket Australia
21 May 2021
The stage is all set for the final of the inaugural World Test Championship. India and New Zealand will lock horns with each other in the title clash scheduled to take place in Southampton from June 18.
Team India had a roller coaster ride during the course of the two-year-long journey and managed to win 12 out of their 16 encounters. Following away series win in West Indies and home series wins against South Africa and Bangladesh, India were given a reality check by New Zealand just ahead of the COVID-19 break. The only unbeaten team in the tournament till then suffered a 0-2 whitewash.
They had a dismal start to the tour DownUnder earlier and were bundled out for 36 in the first Test to go 0-1 down in the four-match series. Moreover, they were marred with injuries one after the other but defied all odds to win the series 2-1.
They had a poor start to their home series against England losing the first Test. However, they bounced back strongly to win the next three and book a place in the final of the Championship.
New Zealand would consider themselves a bit lucky to sneak through. Despite getting a thrashing during their tour of Australia in 2019 where they were blanked 0-3, the Kiwis managed to scrape through by the barest of margins courtesy series victories at home against India, West Indies and Pakistan.
Australia missed out narrowly after losing the home series against India and owing to the cancellation of the Test series in South Africa. Meanwhile, England needed to beat India 3-0, 4-0 or 3-1 to go through but they were thrashed 1-3 and had to bow out of the tournament. Had the series ended in draw, Australia would have sneaked through.
None of the other five teams part of the championship were anywhere close to making the final. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn't possible for all the teams to finish their quota of series and the ICC decided to change the criteria to the percentage of points to determine the finalists.
Well, the WTC witnessed a number of incredible performances with the bat and here we bring you some fascinating knocks from the tournament that left a mark.
Rishabh Pant in Australia
Whenever one would talk about the Border-Gavaskar trophy and how India managed to defend it in 2021, discussion about wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant’s contribution to this victorious triumph would top the charts. The aggressive left-handed batsman produced a magic not once but twice on the Australian soil and showed why the pundits rate him so high.
A few years back when Pant was bursting onto the scene, he had a tendency of going after the bowlers right from the starting and used to give away his wicket. But a little tweak in the series against Australia did wonders for this young lad. He first got his eye in and then began to play his strokes which didn’t just help him score runs but also made him play a vital part in India’s win.
There were two instances where Pant showed his calibre and class. The first one came in the third Test in Sydney where he notched up 97 as India managed to end the match in a draw. India were already trailing 0-1 in the series and were handed a target of 407 runs in the second innings.
After getting reduced to 102/3 with the likes of stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane and experienced opener Rohit Sharma back in the hut, the responsibility of providing the resistance to the side was on Cheteshwar Pujara and Pant.
The two stitched a stand of 148 runs for the fourth wicket before Pant departed for 97. India eventually ended the proceedings at 334/5 as the match was drawn.
The second instance of his brilliance came in Brisbane in the fourth and final Test. The series was levelled at 1-1 and a draw in this game would have meant that the Border-Gavaskar Trophy would remain with India as they had won it in 2018-19.
But Rishabh had other plans. India were asked to chase 328 and had a disappointing start after losing Rohit early in the innings. But another youngster Shubman Gill showed his skills and chipped in with a crucial 91 and built a partnership of 114 runs for the second wicket with Pujara.
While Gill’s departure saw wickets falling at regular intervals, Pant stood strong at the other end and eventually remained unbeaten at 89 to hit the winning runs for the team. India won the match by 3 wickets and wrapped up the series in their favour.
Ben Stokes vs Australia (Ashes 2019)
There are moments that become a nightmare for a player and then there are some events which he/she cherishes for life. England all-rounder Ben Stokes is a perfect example of how this game plays a balancing act.
In the 2016 World T20 final against West Indies, Stokes was hit for four maximums by Brathwaite. England had lost yet another tournament final and Stokes was down in dismay.
Cut to 2019, England were in the final of the 50-over World Cup against New Zealand at Lord’s. While England looked to be on the backfoot at one stage, Stokes’ unbeaten 84 helped them to somehow take the match in the Super Over. England eventually won the World Cup in the Super Over on the basis of boundary county, a rule that was later scrapped by the ICC.
A month later, the left-handed batsman was once again writing his name in the record books. This was the third Ashes Test at Leeds between England and Australia and the hosts needed 359 to win.
They have had a dismal run in the match so far after getting bowled out for 67 in the first innings and no one really expected to see what unfolded next.
Chasing 359, England were reduced to 286/9 with Stokes and Jack Leach out there in the middle.
The two shared a stand of 76 runs for the last wicket as the home side went on to win the match by just one wicket. Leach impressed everyone with his defence as he scored just one run in 17 balls that he faced.
David Warner vs Pakistan
Australia opener David Warner is the only batsman to score a triple-hundred in the World Test Championship. The left-hander achieved the feat against Pakistan the Day-Night against the Asian side in Adelaide in 2019.
Batting first, the hosts put up a mammoth 589/3 (D) after Warner remained unbeaten at 335 while Marnus Labuschagne scored 162 in the first innings.
Later, the Australian seamers rattled Pakistan before tai lender Yasir Shah notched up a ton during the course while Babar Azam fell short of a century by just three runs. Starc picked up six, Cummins had three wickets to his name while Hazlewood scalped one as Australia bundled out the visitors for 302 enforcing the follow-on.
Nothing much changed for Pakistan in the second innings too as Nathan Lyon ripped apart their batting unit to bag a fifer. The visitors were bowled out for 239 to suffer a defeat by an innings and 48 runs.
Virat Kohli vs South Africa
India are simply ruthless when they play at home and this Test match against the Proteas in Pune in October 2019 was another example of something similar. Batting first, India rode on some fine piece of batting from opener Mayank Agarwal, captain Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja to post a huge total of 601/5 (D). While Agarwal scored a ton, Jadeja missed out on a century by 9 runs.
But captain Kohli was in a different zone altogether. He was eyeing the ball perfectly and had precision in every stroke that he played. The right-hander notched up 254* which is also his best Test score till date before declaring the innings. Kohli’s knock of an unbeaten 254 is the third highest individual score so far in the WTC.
India later bowled out South Africa for 275 and 189 in the first and second innings respectively to win the match by an innings and 137 runs. Kohli holds the record for the highest number of double-centuries in Test cricket for India. The swashbuckling batsman has seven double tons to his name.
Kane Williamson vs West Indies
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson is probably one of the finest batsmen across the format that world cricket has ever seen. The right-handed elegant batsman has almost every shot in his textbook that has made him a successful player at the highest level.
One of Williamson’s greatest knocks ever in Test cricket came against West Indies in Hamilton in December 2020 when he struck 251. Williamson’s 251 is also the fourth highest individual score in WTC so far.
The Kiwi skipper’s double-century helped his side post 519/7 (D) in the first innings while the bowlers did the job and cleaned up West Indies for 138 and 247 in the first and second innings respectively.
The hosts won the match by an innings and 134 runs.
While these were the top five batting performances according to us, there were few more magnificent knocks which couldn’t make it to the above tally and one of them came from Kyle Mayers.
The West Indian struck 210* in the second innings against Bangladesh in Chattogram earlier this year to take his side over the line by 3 wickets. Chasing 395, West Indies were reduced to 59/3 before Mayers and Bonner joined hands and put up 216 runs for the fourth wicket to eventually win the game.
Well, all said and done, India and New Zealand are all set for the summit clash that begins on Friday.
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