How dry this year’s ‘patch’ stays will determine the course of Test cricket’s first-ever World Championship final (WTC), starting this weekend. Conversely put, how wet England gets over the next few days will determine which team has an upper hand when the Test begins.
As TOI pointed out on Wednesday, batting will have to be far more impactful – particularly for India – than what has been the case with their top-order of late. On the flipside, though, and reasonably so, expect this to be a bowler’s Test. They’re all capable of those proverbial peaches.
Nine bowlers from India and New Zealand, five from India and four from New Zealand (seven of them pacers), figure in the top 20 of ICC rankings. That’s been more or less the case for two years now – the cycle that made for the WTC.
These same set of bowlers will most likely be in action when Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson walk out for the toss on Friday morning.
Should there be a touch of wetness in the conditions, New Zealand will have an advantage. The drier it stays, the more it’ll help India. The on-field economics will essentially drive the purchase.
Let’s get to the weather forecast first. Friday has ‘rain’, Saturday is showing ‘scattered showers’, Sunday just ‘showers’, Monday has ‘showers’ again and Tuesday too says ‘showers’.
Wednesday is a reserve day, and if the forecast is anything to go by the reserve day might very well be put into use. So, if passages of play remain available during the course of these six days, one can generally assume the conditions will border on the wet. It’s here that New Zealand, having already played two Test matches in England this month, will have the advantage. Conditions similar to what they enjoy back home will surely help them.
The Kiwis have the personnel to trouble the Indian batsmen. Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner make for a potent quartet. Who’ll be New Zealand’s fifth bowler? Probably Colin de Grandhomme or maybe Ajaz Patel. But then, it won’t really matter if the quartet get going.
But what is going to happen if conditions turn out to be relatively drier? New Zealand too will do well to remember what this Indian team has carried to England – a neat set of seven bowlers in its final 15. Two world-class spinners in R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, a genius in Jasprit Bumrah, a workhorse in Ishant Sharma, a magician in Mohammed Shami, and Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj to fall back on.
These men are an equally menacing lot and that they’ve proved over a period of time between 2018 and now. Comparisons can rest for now. It’s the prevailing conditions that’ll matter.
After all, the two teams have made it to the final by virtue of having dominated Test cricket in the last 24 months. The upcoming Test will only be an icing on a cake that has already turned out well.