New Zealand finally got the job done. In 2015 they were the entertainers of the tournament at the Cricket World Cup but were destroyed by Australia in the final. Four years later they seemed to have peaked at the perfect time only to be undone by an incredible late twist by England at Lord’s. But in 2021, they have become the first ever winners of the World Test Championship.
This might not have had quite the drama of 2019, but their eight-wicket win over India in Southampton was clinched with just 7.1 overs of the reserve day to spare. They always seemed like the most likely winners, it was just the weather that threatened to thwart them for the majority of the match.
Once Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner had struck twice in quick succession to remove India openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill on the morning of the second day after a day one washout, New Zealand had a superiority they never looked likely to squander.
Jamieson was key to that. Starring in only his eighth Test match, he took 5 for 31 in 22 miserly overs in the first innings to ensure that India never found their gear. Forties from Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane never turned into the kind of innings that might have turned the tide, and India’s 217 first up looked at least 50 runs shy of being competitive.
To be fair to India, they did their best to replicate the Kiwis’ control with the ball. Mohammed Shami took 4-76 and Ishant Sharma 3-48 as New Zealand were restricted to a first-innings lead of 32, with Devon Conway scoring one of only two half-centuries in the match.
But it was on days five and six after another washout on Monday that Kane Williamson’s side did the most damage. With a further display of control with ball in hand, New Zealand just kept on probing the India batting lineup, and Rishabh Pant’s 41 was a rare bright spot for India as they collapsed to 170 all out and left their opponents needing only 139 from 53 overs on the sixth-day wicket which had seen only 264.3 overs of work to that point.
There was a brief wobble for New Zealand on the final evening, with Tom Latham and Conway both being outfoxed by Ravichandran Ashwin, but Williamson and Ross Taylor first steadied the ship and then found the accelerator to get their hands on the ICC Test Mace.
For a nation which has become sick of finishing second over recent times, there is finally a world title to call their own, and the inaugural World Test Championship got the winner it deserved despite worries that the weather would bring about a tame draw. Don’t be surprised if New Zealand are back in the final when the second iteration comes to a close in two years’ time. They’re not just serial pretenders anymore.