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WTC final analysis: India pay again for letting New Zealand tail wag

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India were 182/5 in their first innings in the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand when they lost Ajinkya Rahane. They were soon bowled out for 217. 

New Zealand lost their sixth wicket at 162, 20 runs fewer than India’s score at six-down. However, they stretched their first innings to 249, with No. 9 Tim Southee’s 30 ensuring a vital lead of 32 in a low-scoring match.

The Indian cricket team’s second-innings batting collapse on the sixth morning has taken most of the blame for their loss in the WTC final. Captain Virat Kohli said they were at least 30-40 runs short of setting New Zealand a challenging target.

 

However, had the Indian bowlers been able to prevent New Zealand from getting to 249 from 162/6 and 192/7, Kohli would have had the additional runs he wanted. Eventually, though, the scorecard registered an eight-wicket loss, making the match appear much more one-sided than it actually was.

Theme of 2018 England tour

This is exactly what kept happening throughout India’s previous Test trip to England in 2018. India would stay neck and neck with England in the first innings. Then someone from the England lower order would play a blinder, and the match would slip away due to India’s inability to clean up the tail.

This became the theme right from the series opener at Edgbaston, Birmingham. Kohli’s epic 149 had kept India’s first-innings deficit to just 13. England were then reduced to 87/7 in their second innings and had an overall lead of just 100, giving India a great chance of starting the five-Test series with a win.

But Sam Curran, only 20 then and playing just his second Test, cracked 63 off 65 at No 8. England stretched their second innings to 180 and India fell 32 short of the target of 194.

India were to be blown away by an innings in the second Test at Lord’s, London, but even there, they had England on 131/5. It was Chris Woakes’ turn now, as he made his maiden Test ton. His unbeaten 137 at No 7 took England to 396/7 declared, shutting India out of the match.

In the fourth Test in Southampton, Cheteshwar Pujara’s century gave India a first-innings lead of 27. England were down to 122/5 and 178/6 in the second innings. And again, Curran struck 46 to revive England to 271. India managed 184 in pursuit of 245 to surrender the series.

The fifth and final Test at The Oval, London will be remembered for Alastair Cook’s farewell century in a comfortable England victory margin of 118 runs. Even here, India had England on 181/7 and 214/8 in the first innings. It was No 10 Stuart Broad who blasted 38 this time and along with No 7 Jos Buttler (89), took England to 332.

Since that tour, Kohli has often said that those matches were a lot closer than the scoreline of 1-4 suggests. They surely were, but what stands is that India lost the series 1-4.

Similarly, this WTC final was a lot closer than the eight-wicket defeat margin suggests. Who knows what could have been had India quickly run through the Kiwi tail. But it is New Zealand who are now the inaugural WTC winners.

And five more Tests await India again in England, in August and September. Hopefully, the Indian bowling attack will not let the English tail wag as much again.

Featured photo: Glyn KIRK / AFP

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