Kane Williamson's nifty New Zealand have emerged as the first-ever winners of the ICC World Test Championship by defeating Virat Kohli's India in the Final of its first edition which commenced in August, 2019.
Much like many other sporting codes this tournament was tarnished by the COVID-19 pandemic, with several tours halted and/or cancelled as a result. Pakistan's home series against Bangladesh coincided with the onset of the global pandemic in April, 2020, which saw that particular series abandoned. Similarly, in February this year, Australia took a rain check on their planned tour to South Africa due to concerns surrounding the virus.
This has meant that not all 9 nations involved in the WTC contested an equal amount of test series' over the last 2 years. Upon launching the competition in July, 2019 the ICC announced that all 9 teams were each to play against six others – comprising of three home tours and three away.
However only four teams managed to complete all of the proposed six series' – namely India, England, Sri Lanka & West Indies. New Zealand and South Africa each played five series', Australia completed four.
Australia's withdrawal from their tour of SA granted New Zealand their berth in the Final. India confirmed their spot in the showpiece event after they defeated England, 3-1 in the 4-match series in the subcontinent.
With the two finalists occupying the top 2 positions in the standings, Australia sealed 3rd place with a win percentage of 69%. England finished 4th (61%) ahead of South Africa (44%) and Pakistan (43%).
Proceedings were delayed due to inclement weather in Hampshire, with Day 1 of the Final abandoned without a ball bowled. Action eventually got underway on Day 2; NZ skipper Williamson won the toss and elected to send Kohli's India in to bat first. The unfavourable cloud cover meant the fluctuation of in-play sessions and also made for challenging batting conditions.
The start of play on Day 3 was delayed due to a wet outfield and, similarly to the opening day, Day 4 was washed out without a ball bowled. With barely three innings' completed by the end of Day 5, play had to continue into its reserve day to allow for the fruition of this lucrative encounter.
India started Day 6 leading by 32 runs and had 8 wickets in hand but the wickets began to tumble as New Zealand's 5-strong consortium of pace bowlers caused the damage: Kyle Jamieson struck early to remove veterans Kohli and Pujara before Trent Boult claimed three scalps as India limped to a total of 170, with their opponents needing 139 runs in 53 overs to be crowned ICC WTC champions. A jovial crowd at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, representing both parties.
Without a cloud in sight, the blazing sunshine witnessed Williamson and his fellow Kiwi stalwart Ross Taylor strike up a partnership of 96 runs to see out the contest and wrap up the Black Caps' first world title. New Zealand walk away with the ICC Test Championship Mace as well as a purse of $1,6million.
Jamieson was named Player of the Match after he took 7 wickets for 61 runs across India's two innings'.
The WTC Final served as a swansong for NZ wicket-keeper BJ Watling. Born in Durban, South Africa, his family emigrated to New Zealand when the now-retired Watling was 10 years old. Watling, 35, has called time on his playing career and bows out as the Black Caps' most successful wicket-keeper in terms of most test runs and most test dismissals.
Watling scored 205 runs vs England in November, 2019 to set the highest individual test score by a NZ keeper.
India spin bowler Ravichandran Ashwin picked up the most wickets (71) throughout the biennial competition, narrowly ahead of fast bowlers Pat Cummins (70 wickets, Australia) and Stuart Broad (69 wickets, England).
Ashwin's best bowling figures were 7/145 vs South Africa in October, 2019.
South African-born Australian batsman Marnus Labuschagne was the highest run-scorer over the course of the past 22 months with 1,675 runs in 23 innings' – averaging 72 runs per innings. Labuschagne also recorded the most centuries and half-centuries (5x 100's, 9x 50's).
England captain Joe Root scored 1,660 runs in 37 innings' and Australia's Steve Smith averaged 63 with his 1,341 runs in 22 innings'. Root and Smith both scored 50+ runs on 11 occasions each.
David Warner scored the most runs in an innings when he smacked 335* in Australia's 1st innings versus Pakistan in November, 2019. The Aussies won the match by an innings and 48 runs with thanks to Warner's splendid knock.
International test cricket takes a breather for a few months before the next edition of the ICC WTC commences. Attention now turns to one-day cricket ahead of the ICC T20 World Cup in India which gets underway in October.
England are currently in the midst of a one-day tour at home to Sri Lanka, while Australia prepare to travel to the Caribbean for a white-ball tour of the West Indies in July.