The inaugural World Test Championship began with the Ashes Test series, with the first Test taking place on August 1, 2019. After witnessing several exciting games of Test cricket, India and New Zealand emerged as the two finalists.
India started their World Test Championship campaign with seven consecutive wins. However, things got awry afterwards. India had to toil hard till the final Test in the series against England earlier this year to book a place in the World Test Championship final.
Let's have a look at India's road to the WTC final against New Zealand
India starts off with a 2-0 win against West Indies
India started their World Test Championship campaign with a 2-0 win against West Indies in their first Test in WTC played at North Sound in Antigua. The Men in Blue dominated the series, scoring a plethora of runs and bundling out the men from the Caribbean for low scores.
Sensational spells from Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and a significant contribution from Ajinkya Rahane with the bat helped India win the first Test by a big margin of 318 runs. Rahane scored a solid 81 in the first innings. It was followed by a superlative century in the second innings. Both Jasprit Bumrah and Ishant Sharma picked five-wicket hauls each.
Jasprit Bumrah picking a hat-trick was the highlight of the second Test played at Kingston in Jamaica. He wreaked havoc with the new ball, producing a fine spell of swing bowling. The foundation, however, was set with a fine century from Hanuma Vihari. He scored 111 off 225 balls to help India register a mammoth 416 in the first innings. India won that game by 257 runs, thereby claiming the series 2-0.
India whitewash South Africa 3-0
Two months after securing a 2-0 win against West Indies, India hosted South Africa for a three-match Test series. It marked the return of Rohit Sharma in red-ball cricket. The Hitman opened for the side and scored centuries in both innings of the first Test played in Visakhapatnam. India posted 502 and 323 in their two innings. Mohammad Shami and Ravindra Jadeja picked five and four wickets respectively to bundle out South Africa for 191 in the last innings to win the match by 203 runs.
Nobody had thought that India would go on to win the next two Tests as well and whitewash the Proteas 3-0. Virat Kohli’s stellar 254 made it a one-sided affair in the second Test played in Pune. India posted 601 in the first innings and didn’t have to bat in the next. The second Test was won by an innings and 137 runs.
The third Test that took place in Ranchi was pretty much on similar lines. India posted 497 runs in the first innings, courtesy a double-century from Rohit Sharma. South Africa showed no fight in the game, posting 162 and 133 in the next two innings.
Ruthless India continues their winning run against Bangladesh
Next up was Bangladesh! The ruthless Indian Team continued their winning momentum against the Tigers, winning the series 2-0. Mayank Agarwal’s 243 helped India secure a win in the first game played at the Holkar Stadium in Indore. This was followed by the first-ever Day-Night Test in India which was held at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
The likes of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami were too good for a young Bangladesh side in the second Test. The trio produced a sensational spell of swing bowling as they bundled out Bangladesh for 106 and 195 in respectively. India won the first-ever Day-Night Test played at home by an innings and 46 runs.
New Zealand put a brake on India’s winning-run
A high-flying India were shot back to the ground by New Zealand in their next Test assignment. A spirited performance from New Zealand bowlers in the first Test played at the Basin Reserve in Wellington gave India its first defeat in the World Test Championship. The trio of Southee, Boult and Jamieson ran through the Indian batting lineup as they could only manage to score 165 and 191 runs in the first and second innings, respectively.
Tim Southee was the pick of the bowlers as he picked 9 wickets in the match. While Trent Boult and Kyle Jamieson picked 5 and 4 respectively. The trio produced a similar performance in the second Test at Christchurch as well to help their side take the series 2-0. The second Test match saw Kyle Jamieson picking his first five-for in Test Cricket. India crossed the 200-run mark for the first time in the series in the first innings. However, that wasn’t enough for them as they folded for just 124 runs in their second innings. New Zealand won that game easily by 7 wickets.
India roar back to win the Border-Gavaskar series 2-1
India didn’t start off well as they suffered their third consecutive defeat in the WTC after losing the first Test by 7 wickets in Adelaide. Virat Kohli and Co. suffered a dramatic collapse as they were bundled out for 36 runs and thereby dented their chances of making it to the WTC final.
Ahead of the second Test in Melbourne, Virat Kohli went back to India for the birth of his first child. Mohammad Shami suffered an injury. However, this didn’t deter a resilient Indian cricket team who weren’t ready to give up just yet.
Under the stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane, India produced a stellar fightback. India bowled out Australia for just 198 in the first innings, courtesy a four-for by Jasprit Bumrah. However, what grabbed eyeballs was a stellar century from Ajinkya Rahane. His innings of 112 runs off 223 balls came at the most important juncture and saw a turnaround in the fortunes of India in the series. India scored 326 runs in the second innings and later bowled out Australia for 200 to win the game by 8 wickets.
The injury toll got the worse of India at the Sydney Cricket Ground where India scrapped their way to the most remarkable of draws. That game saw India’s batting strength as the likes of Rishabh Pant, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravi Ashwin played their heart out to draw the third Test.
The fourth game was played at the Gabba in Brisbane; the last time any visiting team had won at Gabba was back in 1988 when West Indies got the better of Australia. India were playing without the services of Virat Kohli, Ravi Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah.
Not a lot of people had expected India to win the final Test match of the series. However, the young guns had other ideas. There were valuable contributions from several players. Mohammed Siraj picked up his first five-for in Test cricket, while Shardul Thakur picked 8 wickets in the Test. However, it was Rishabh Pant’s defiant 89-run knock that took India over the line on the final day of the Test, chasing a target of 328 runs.
India beat England 3-1 to book their place in the World Test Championship final
India had to win at least two Tests out of four to seal their place in the World Test Championship final. Once again, they started on the worst possible note, losing the first Test played at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai by a big margin of 227 runs. Joe Root’s double century put all hopes in vain as England led the series 1-0 after the conclusion of the first Test.
India prepared a serious turner in the next Test played at the same venue and England had no answers to that. On a pitch where batsmen found the going tough, Rohit Sharma blazed his way to a fine 161 off 231 to help his team put on a mammoth 329-run total in the first innings. The bowlers did the rest as India won the game by 317 runs to level the series 1-1.
Axar Patel had a terrific series with the ball. His best performance, however, came in the third Test played at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad where he returned figures of 6 for 38 and 5 for 32 to help his team claim a comfortable win and take the lead.
The spinners continued to spring a web around English batsmen, as they bundled them out for 205 and 135 in their two innings in the fourth Test. India won the series 3-1 and with that booked their place in the World Test Championship final.
India and New Zealand are scheduled to play the summit clash between June 18 and June 22 at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Southampton in the United Kingdom.