The Virat Kohli-led Indian cricket team will take on New Zealand in the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final from June 18 to 22 at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. 

While the Kiwis defeated England by eight wickets in the second and final Test on Sunday and won the two-match series 1-0 - their first series win in England in 22 years, India, on the other hand, completed their preparation for WTC final with the culmination of the intra-squad game.

Ahead of the much-anticipated WTC final, we here bring to you all the updates before the blockbuster final gets underway:

June 17: 11:30 AM: WTC final should have been a three-match series

Cricket great Sachin Tendulkar is of the opinion that the World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand should have been a three-match series and not a one-off match.

"When you play in the 50-over World cup or the T20 championships, you play each side only once, depending on which pool you are in," Tendulkar told CNN News18.

"Then there is continuity and you play only one final. In that case, it’s fair to have one final match. Here, in the world test championship, you (India) play four matches against Australia and four against England in India and suddenly you make it to the final and it is only one match. It should have been a WTC series – the final series. Ideally should be the best of the 3 matches. It can be decided how you play those matches – one home, one away or so."

June 16: 07:00 AM: Sanjay Manjrekar picks his India XI for WTC final 

Former India cricketer and now a renowned broadcaster Sanjay Manjrekar has revealed his India’s XI for the WTC final against New Zealand starting on June 18th at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton.

Manjrekar opted for Hanuma Vihari instead of Ravindra Jadeja to provide defensive solidity in the lower middle order.

"I'm assuming you have typical English conditions. I'm assuming there will be a mixture of sun and cloudy cover throughout the five days of the Test match if it goes the distance. So, I'm picking the team accordingly," Manjrekar said in an ESPNCricinfo video.

"Going to have Hanuma Vihari to reward him for his brilliant innings before he got injured. India will need somebody with more compact defensive technique. Because the guys at the top of the order, barring (Cheteshwar) Pujara, aren't those kinds. So I will have Hanuma Vihari at number 6. Pant at 7, considering India have hardly had any practice game. I just want to make sure the batting runs deep," Manjrekar added.

In another surprising selection, the 55-year-old selected Mohammed Siraj over Ishant Sharma due to the former's swing bowling ability.

"Want Siraj, the swing bowler to be brought into the equation, and the last time Siraj bowled overseas in Australia, [he] got a five-wicket haul. Hard to leave a bowler like him out.

"You will be tempted to think of Siraj because when you look at Shami, Bumrah and Ishant, they are more seam bowlers, hit-the-deck kind of bowler. Siraj might offer something different. I would go with Siraj, but India might play Ishant for obvious reasons," he added.

Sanjay Manjrekar's playing XI for WTC final: Shubman Gill, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj.

June 15: 8:50 PM: India have to turn fully focussed to beat NZ in WTC final: Sachin Tendulkar

India cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar has said that the WTC final between India and New Zealand will be a competitive match and both teams will need to be at their best to come out on top.

"India vs New Zealand will be competitive. Doesn't mean New Zealand will beat us again. They have to play good quality cricket to beat India," Tendulkar was quoted as saying to NDTV.

"For India to beat the Kiwis, we will have to play well in all 3 departments. Those 50 per cent chances need to be converted. We have to turn up fully focussed, fully ready to deliver. That is not when you start figuring out things. You will have to figure out before," he added.

June 15: 05:50 PM: VVS Laxman suggests India's batting order for WTC final

Former India cricketer VVS Laxman said that he would go with five batsmen in India's line-up, with Ravindra Jadeja batting at No. 7.

"I would go with five batsmen, Rishabh as the wicket-keeper batsman at number six, and I've got a lot of belief in Jadeja at number seven and Ashwin at number eight," Laxman said at a press conference organised by Star Sports before the WTC final.

"Jadeja is a more than capable batsman who can now play match-winning knocks under pressure. So, I would back Jadeja to bat at number seven," he added.

June 14: 6:45 PM: ICC reveals prize money for WTC Final, new rule for Test mace

The International Cricket Council (ICC) announced that the winner of the inaugural World Test Championship final (WTC) between New Zealand and India will walk away with USD 1.6 million, as well as the Test Championship Mace. The runner-up, meanwhile, will take home USD 800,000.

If there is no result by the end of the WTC final, the teams will split up the total prize money of USD 2.4 million.

Additionally, the ICC went on to mention the new rule for the Test mace. The mace, earlier awarded every year to the teams topping the Test team rankings, will now be given to the WTC winners here onwards. Should there be a draw result in the final, both teams will share possession of the mace during the time they remain champions.

June 14: 10:30 AM: Southampton curator aims for 'pace, bounce and carry' in WTC final pitch

Southampton groundsman Simon Lee has said that he is aiming to produce a pacy and bouncy pitch for the World Test Championship (WTC) final with some assistance for spinners later on in the game.

"Pitch preparation for this Test is a little simpler as we are a neutral venue, we are guided by the ICC, but we all want is a good pitch that offers an even contest between the teams," Lee was quoted as saying to ESPNcricinfo.

"For me personally I just want to get something out that has some pace, bounce and carry in the pitch.

"It can be a hard thing to do in England as the weather doesn't help us most of the time, but the forecast in the build-up is good with a lot of sun, so we are hopeful that we'll get some pace and a hard pitch without over-rolling it and killing it," the curator added.

June 13: 10:00 PM: Jadeja hits unbeaten fifty as BCCI shares Day 3 clip

India all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja scored an unbeaten half-century on the third day of India’s intra-squad match simulation in Southampton. The BCCI on Sunday posted a video on Twitter and wrote, "@imjadeja gets to his half-century (54* off 76) as play on Day 3 of the intra-squad match simulation comes to end. @mdsirajofficial is amongst wickets with figures of 2/22."

June 12: 7:00 PM: BCCI release Day 2 details of India's intra-squad match

India's Shubhman Gill and Rishabh Pant played big knocks as India continued their intra-squad warm-up match ahead of the WTC final. After Gill started strongly with an 85-run knock, his teammate Pant capitalized on it with an unbeaten 121 on Day 2 of the match.

June 12: 11:30 AM: New Zealand will have the advantage: R Ashwin

Ace Indian spinner Ravichandran Ashwin believes that the New Zealand cricket team will have an advantage over India as they will come to the World Test Championship final after playing two Test matches against hosts England.

"I expect a very well-planned and well-knit New Zealand team to come at us," Ashwin told ESPNCricinfo, "Obviously having played two Tests, they will definitely come in with an advantage. So we have to adapt to that."

After drawing the first Test match with England at the Lord's which saw New Zealand's Devon Conway hogging the limelight with a double ton on his Test debut, the Kiwis are currently playing the second Test match at Edgbaston.

June 11: 9:10 AM: Harbhajan Singh picks Mohammed Siraj over Ishant Sharma

Former India spinner Harbhajan Singh has said that Mohammed Siraj would have been picked for the World Test Championship over Ishant Sharma.

"If I was the captain, I would go with three pure fast bowlers. In that case, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami pick themselves. In this final, I would like to go with Mohammed Siraj ahead of Ishant Sharma," Harbhajan told PTI.

"Ishant is a brilliant bowler but for this game, my choice is Siraj, who has shown remarkable improvement in the last two years."

"You have to look at present scenario. Siraj's form, pace and confidence makes him a better choice for this final match. The kind of form he is in last six months, he looks like a bowler who is hungry for his chances. Ishant has gone through some injuries of late but has been a great servant of Indian cricket no doubt," the off-spinner said.

"If you leave some grass on the surface, Siraj with his pace will be lethal. Trust me, New Zealand batters won't find him easy as he not only hits the deck but also gets to move the ball off the pitch at brisk pace. He can create awkward angles for batsmen," India's third highest wicket-taker in Test cricket observed.

June 8: 2:00 AM: Match officials for WTC final announced

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has announced that England’s Richard Illingworth and Michael Gough will be the on-field umpires for the World Test Championship (WTC) final between India and New Zealand starting on June 18.

ICC Elite Panel match referee and former England opener Chris Broad will be the match referee for the high-profile match.

Richard Kettleborough, also a member of the elite panel, will be the TV umpire, and Alex Wharf of the ICC International Panel of Umpires the fourth official, the ICC said in a statement.

June 7: 2:00 PM: Kane Williamson says WTC brings excitement to Test Cricket

Looking back at their campaign that led New Zealand to become the first finalist of the World Test Championship Final, skipper Kane Williamson has stated that the competition has brought more context to cricket's most traditional format.

While the Kiwis had to win six Tests on the trot to secure a place in the WTC final, India had to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia and see off a tough English side at home across four Test matches, to reach the summit clash.

“They have looked to bring about more context to the Test format and I think we saw it at the end of the competition, teams trying to push their case for qualifying which made way for a lot of exciting results,” Williamson told ICC.

“I thought it proved to be great adding that context and for us to see ourselves in the position we are in the finals now. It is exciting.

“Obviously the idea behind the tournament structure of Test championship and added points and these sorts of things to entice and improve the brand of the game and I think when it came to the crunch time, you could see the equation of what they had to do to be involved in the final. You saw sides play that way which is what they are after. Hopefully, that has generated a lot of interest from the public and enjoyment of the Test game, which is obviously what cricketers are involved in.

“It is the pinnacle and I certainly enjoy playing it. It has added a good element to the Test format,” the Kiwi captain added.

June 7: 1:00 PM: No change in follow-on rule, says ICC; provides update on player review

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has come out with a clarification for the extra day added to the World Test Championship (WTC) final, stating that the rule will be followed like any ordinary Test match. This means that even if a day of play is completely washed away, the WTC final can still be a full five-day match.

What is the follow-on rule in cricket? Follow-on in cricket is a rule that can be enforced in a situation when the team batting first has a substantial lead over the team batting second, following the conclusion of each side's first innings. 

if the team batting first takes a lead of 200 runs or more after both sides have had their first innings then they can instruct the other side to 'follow-on', changing the order in which each team bats. Hence, a team batting second in the first innings will bat first in the second innings (ABBA), rather than continuing the usual trend from the start of the match (ABAB).

While the follow-on rule is majorly applied in a five-day Test. it can also be applied for matches with a shorter duration. A lead of 150 is required to enforce the follow-on in a three or four-day match, while a two-day match requires a 100-run lead and a 75-run lead can see a team enforce a follow-on on a one-day game. 

Also, the governing body also provided further information on the newly-introduced 'Player review'. "Previously the playing conditions prevented a player from asking the umpire any questions before launching a review which led to the unreasonable loss of a review when the player and umpire had a different opinion on whether a shot had been played. This has been changed to allow either the fielding captain or the dismissed batter to ask the umpire whether a genuine attempt has been made to play the ball prior to deciding whether to initiate a player review," the ICC noted.

June 6: 11:00 AM: Virat Kohli-led India have an edge going into WTC final, says Dilip Vengsarkar

Former Indian cricket team batsman Dilip Vengsarkar has said that the Virat Kohli-led India are a better side going into the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton from June 18.

"If you compare the New Zealand team to the Indian team, man to man, India looks the better team. Of course, Trent Boult is a world-class bowler and Kane Williamson is a world-class batsman. But India is a more all-round team," the 65-year-old said.

"We have got quality spinners (Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja), we have got quality fast bowlers (Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, and Mohammed Siraj) and quality batters as well," Vengsarkar told Khaleej Times.

June 6: 10:30 AM: Both India and New Zealand are evenly matched: Mike Hesson

Former New Zealand cricket team coach Mike Hesson feels that both India and the Kiwis are evenly matched in the World Test Championship (WTC) final which starts at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on June 18.

"They are even (India and New Zealand). The fact that it's being played at a neutral venue also makes the WTC final an even contest. Assuming there are no injuries in the next couple of weeks, both sides will be at full strength, and we are in for an exciting contest," said Hesson, who took over from John Wright in 2012 and relinquished his post as New Zealand coach in 2018.

"I am keen to see how India's top-order fares against the swinging ball. The ball does a bit in Southampton and as the cross breeze comes into play, it can be a challenge for the batsmen. How the Indian top order plays the New Zealand pacers could decide the outcome," Hesson told The Times of India.

June 4: 1:30 PM: Brett Lee picks his favourites ahead of India vs New Zealand WTC final

SportsAdda's brand ambassador Brett Lee believes that the Kane Williamson-led New Zealand have an edge over the Indian cricket team in the much-anticipated World Test Championship (WTC) final in Southampton.

"I think it is pretty evenly matched there. I am thinking though with the experience of New Zealand because they have bowled in conditions which are similar back home," Lee told the ICC's official website.

"It may be conducive to fast bowling, to swing bowling. So that is where I think that the Kiwis might have an advantage purely from that fact. Now from a batting point of view, both sides have got batsmen that can play against swing bowling. But I think it comes down to bowling. I think whichever team bowls best will win the final."

June 3: 6:00 PM: Kohli-Shastri's leaked conference audio hints at Siraj-Shami combination

Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri are reportedly set to deploy Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami against New Zealand in the World Test Championship (WTC) final, as per a leaked audio clip. Kohli and Shastri, who were due to answer questions at a virtual pre-match conference but their conversation - which hints at possible team combinations - was caught live unbeknownst to them.

In the leaked clip, Virat Kohli is heard saying, “Hum inko round the wicket dalwayenge, Left-handers hai inpe, Lala Siraj sabko start se hi laga denge. (We will get them round the wicket, left-handers are in, Lala (Mohammed Shami) Siraj will put them all from the start.)”

June 2: 6:00 PM: WTC final should be a best-of-three contest, says Ravi Shastri

Team India head coach Ravi Shastri on Wednesday said he would've loved to witness a 'best of three' World Test Championship (WTC) finals against New Zealand but underlined the need for the completion of the current cycle.  

"I think ideally, in the long run, if they want to pursue this Test championship, a best of three final would be ideal. A three-match series as a culmination of two and a half years of cricket," Shastri said during the virtual interaction.

"But they need to finish off the Future Tours Program (FTP) and then start all over again. So one-off is one-off, guys have earned their stripes, and this is not a team that has suddenly blossomed overnight."

June 2: 1:00 PM: Rishabh Pant is a special talent and player to watch: Ashwin

Indian cricket team all-rounder Ravichandran Ashwin reckons that Rishabh Pant could be the game-changer for India in the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final, given his splendid turnaround in form - international and in the Indian T20 League - in 2021.

"We have the luxury of batting the keeper at No. 6 and playing five bowlers, which is so crucial for the combination. His (Rishabh Pant) natural bat swing and fearless approach make him a special player and a talent to watch," Ashwin said.

June 1: 9:30 AM: New Zealand in great place to create history, says Trent Boult

New Zealand pacer Trent Boult has expressed his confidence in his team and stated that the Kiwis are capable of creating history when it clashes with India for the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) title starting on June 18.

"The way the group has travelled and performed around New Zealand and the world, the boys are in a great place to hopefully create a bit of history," Boult told reporters at the Bay Oval.

May 31: 10:30 PM: It's 60-40 in New Zealand's favour against India, says Brendon McCullum

Former New Zealand Bredon McCullum has revealed that the Kiwis have a slight advantage over India in the inaugural WTC final to be played at Southampton, England, beginning on June 18.

"I thought I was getting away with that (this question). I think 60-40, New Zealand. I think it's gonna be close but I think the match practice that New Zealand is going to have against England leading into the final could just tip it their way," McCullum said in an interview.

May 31: 10:00 PM: Indian players' families get clearance to travel with team to UK

A senior BCCI on Tuesday revealed that the families of players and support staff of both the Indian men’s and women’s cricket teams will be allowed to accompany them during their lengthy tour of England this month.

The families will onboard the charter flight that will fly both the men's and women's squads, which will land on June 3 in London.

May 31: 6:30 PM: Don't underestimate New Zealand as underdogs, says Agarkar

Former India pacer Ajit Agarkar has ironed out that the New Zealand cricket team are no longer underdogs in ICC tournaments and that India should not 'underestimate' them.

"I don’t think the Indian team would be guilty to underestimate them (The Kiwis). I think the underdog tag has gone away from New Zealand. Every ICC tournament you look at – okay, this is the first of its kind, Test championship – every ICC tournament, whether it’s the T20 World Cup, the Champions Trophy, the World Cup; they always turn up, they’re always there in the thereabout,” Agarkar said.

The 43-year-old, now a TV Pundit, also gave a reality check on how New Zealand have got the better of the Indian cricket team in recent times.

"They (New Zealand) beat India comprehensively well when India toured New Zealand and the conditions are likely to be very similar to what India got in New Zealand. So, India will have to play well to beat New Zealand in this contest, the former India stalwart added.

May 31: 8:00 AM: Sunny points out the flip side of NZ playing ENG before WTC final

With the New Zealand cricket team scheduled to play two Test matches with England ahead of the World Test Championship final, it is believed that the Kiwis will come to the Rosebowl better acclimatized to the English conditions than the Indian cricket team.

While former Indian cricketer Sunil Gavaskar accepts the advantage of New Zealand from that position, he also pointed out the flip side of the same in his column in The Telegraph.

"The pessimists are suggesting that playing two Tests before the WTC finals will be a huge plus for the Kiwis as they will be match ready and better acclimatised to the conditions," Gavaskar wrote.

"The flip side of playing those two Tests is that New Zealand could get beaten and thus be low on morale when they take on India and there could be some injuries and niggles to some of their key players which can happen in early June in England," he added.

May 30: 12:30 PM: WTC final is like the World Cup final, says Neil Wagner

New Zealand pacer Neil Wagner is leaving no stones unturned for the WTC final as he believes that the upcoming match against India is no less than that the World Cup final because he has never played a white-ball game for his country.

"Yeah, it is like a World Cup final for me," ESPNcricinfo quoted Wagner as saying.

"The biggest disappointment, I guess, in my career is that I've never really played a white-ball game for New Zealand or never been able to crack into the T20 or the one-day game. That ship has probably sailed now and I don't think the opportunity will ever come. For me now, it's about putting all my focus and energy into Test cricket and to be able to play in a World Test Championship final is like a World Cup for me," he added.

May 29: 4:42 PM: Ashwin talks about India's chances against New Zealand

Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin believes that India can replicate their performance of the Australia series in the World Test Championship final. India came back from 1-0 down to win the series 2-1 despite having several senior players out injured. 

“Once we go there I think the Indian team will adapt quickly and perform like we did in Australia, Ashwin told New Indian Express.

“We are at least another week to 10 days away from even practising for the first time. Most of the players have not played cricket since the IPL was called off. So, I think that is one of the biggest challenges,” he said.

May 29: 10:10 AM: Michael Vaughan names three players to keep an eye on

Former England captain Michael Vaughan has backed New Zealand to beat India in the World Test Championship final, considering the fact that the Kiwis are more acclimatized to the conditions than the Men in Blue. Now, the former batsman has named three players who he believes could make a stern impact in the high-profile fixture. 

"First is Kyle Jamieson as he's had a magnificent start to his Test career. Next is Rishabh Pant as he's the star of the world game. He has been incredible over the last few months, especially against Australia and England. Next, I'll go with BJ Watling in his swansong as he's been a fantastic servant for New Zealand cricket," Vaughan told CricTracker.

May 25: 12:30 PM: Weather conditions in England might just favour New Zealand, says Kiwi legend Richard Hadlee

Former New Zealand fast bowler Richard Hadlee has said that the cold overhead conditions in England might just favour New Zealand a bit in the World Test Championship (WTC) final.

“It all comes down as to who is better prepared and who adapts better to the English conditions the quickest," was quoted as saying to ICC. 

 “The weather may also play a part and if it is cold that will favour New Zealand. The Duke ball will suit both team’s fast bowlers especially the genuine swing bowlers and the Kiwis are well served in that department with Southee, Boult and Jamieson.” 

May 25: 11:00 AM: Kohli, Rohit join Team India in Mumbai for hard quarantine

India captain Virat Kohli, his white-ball deputy Rohit Sharma and head coach Ravi Shastri joined the England-bound squad's bio-bubble on Tuesday as it began its eight-day hard quarantine along with the women's team.

May 19: 6:00 PM: Ashwin, Siraj reach Mumbai in charter flight, begin quarantine

Indian cricket team members reached Mumbai to begin their 14-day quarantine before leaving for their respective tours of England. The BCCI on Wednesday posted pictures of cricketers Ravichandran Ashwin, women's team captain Mithali Raj, pacer Mohammed Siraj and opening batsman Mayank Agarwal in the charter plane the board has arranged for players to come to Mumbai.

May 7: 7:00 PM: India announce squad for WTC final 

The BCCI announced a 20-man Indian squad for the inaugural ICC World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand and the five-match Test series against England

Here is the full India Test squad: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Md. Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul (subject to fitness clearance), Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper; subject to fitness clearance).

Standby players: Abhimanyu Easwaran, Prasidh Krishna, Avesh Khan, Arzan Nagwaswalla

April 7: 11:30 PM: New Zealand announce 20-member squad for WTC final

New Zealand named a 20-member squad for their World Test Championship final against India. 

The Kane Williamson-led side included three uncapped players - Rachin Ravindra, Devon Conway and Jacob Duffy. The squad will then be trimmed to 15 for the World Test Championship final at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton starting on June 18, as per ICC regulations.

New Zealand full squad for WTC final: Kane Williamson (captain), Rachin Ravindra, Devon Conway, Jacob Duffy, Tom Blundell, Ross Taylor, BJ Watling (wicket-keeper), Tom Latham, Daryll Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Colin de Grandhomme, Neil Wagner, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Mitchell Santner, Ajaz Patel, Doug Bracewell, Jacob Duffy, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Will Young

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Featured photo: Randy Brooks / AFP