First we had the 50-over World Cup. Then came the 20-over showpiece event. And now, in 2021, the oldest format of the game will have its first one-off battle to determine which team can claim to be the world champion in red-ball cricket.
The World Test Championship was created to provide structure and context to bilateral matches. And from June 18 in Southampton, India and New Zealand – the top two ranked teams in the world – will battle it out for the world Test crown.
The Black Caps enter the match as favourites, as the conditions in England suit their style. Plus, they are fresh from a historic Test series win over Joe Root's team, which is ideal preparation for the match where players will have no time to find their bearings. And remember, 2019 World Cup finalists New Zealand are now the top ODI and Test team according to ICC rankings.
India, on the other hand, have been forced to rely on intra-squad match simulations in the absence of any competitive cricket since the IPL was suspended early in May. However, they will take a lot of confidence from the Test series win in Australia earlier in the year with what was basically a third-string team.
Where to watch the final in the UAE
Etisalat's eLife users in the UAE can watch the match on CricLife channel. SwitchTV is the official digital streaming platform for the match in the region. The match begins on Friday, June 18, from 1.30pm UAE time.
The winners of the WTC final will take home a purse of $1.6 million along with the Test championship Mace. The losing finalists will get $800,000.
New Zealand were without star players Kane Williamson (elbow) and BJ Watling (back) in the second Test against England. Both have recovered.
India, on the hand, have too many options, especially in the crucial fast bowling department. They will need to decide whether to go with three seamers or drop one of two world-class spinners – Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
India squad: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, Wriddhiman Saha, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Siraj.
New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Will Young.
The temperature in Southampton is expected to hover around the 20 degree Celsius mark over the weekend, which chances of scattered showers. The ground curator Simon Lee said he is aiming to prepare a traditional English wicket with pace and bounce. But he expects spin to play a role if the weather relents and the pitch remains dry.