Two years and sixty-nine matches have led us to the World Test Cricket (WTC) Final at London’s iconic Oval ground on June 7th — this time it’s India and Australia competing for the title. India was runners-up in the inaugural final last year, and will be hoping to go one better to underline their status as one of the dominant forces in international test cricket. But Australia is always a force to be reckoned with — the Baggy Greens demolished old foes England 4-0 in the 21/22 Ashes series, and demolished the West Indies in the islands last winter.
India and Australia faced off for the Border–Gavaskar Trophy earlier this year, with the hosts coming out on top, winning two of the four matches. But Australia hauled themselves back into the series with a convincing victory in Indore, traditionally a very tricky venue for visiting teams. The final test was battled to a draw, and given that the final is on neutral turf, we should be in for a highly competitive few days of cricket. Let’s see how India will measure up to the Australians.
India’s long road to the final
India’s campaign began with a tour of England in August 2021, for a five-match series to be played over the late summer. The first test was heavily affected by rain, and resulted in a draw, but India won the second test. England drew level, but India went on to win the fourth test to take a series lead of 2-1. The fifth test, scheduled for September, was postponed until July 2022 due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the tourist’s squad, and England won to level the series 2-2.
India took on reigning WTC champions New Zealand in a two-test series in November 2021. A draw in Kanpur was followed by an Indian victory in Mumbai, adding more points to India’s tally. A trip to South Africa was less successful — although a solid first inning in the opening test secured victory, the following two matches were won convincingly by the Proteas.
India finished with 127 points, placing second behind the Aussies.
The Winter Ashes is a tournament where England always seems to struggle — and struggle they did, only managing to salvage a draw at Sydney to prevent a complete whitewash. And although much has been said of the fragility of the English batting order, the Australian bowling attack was ruthless and relentless. Such a heavy victory was a warning shot as to the quality of cricket produced by the Baggy Greens over the next 18 months — even when they drew or lost a series, they managed to pull a convincing victory out of the bag.
The West Indies were promptly dispatched on their tour down under, and more of the same followed when South Africa visited — although the Proteas managed to salvage a draw in one of the three tests. Australia looked imperious on their way to 152 points in the league stage.
Summer in London usually offers pleasant conditions for test cricket, as long as the rain stays away. The ground is known as a good place for batters to do their work — historically the pitch is flat and hard, meaning the first three days of a test should be more of a test for bowlers to find some swing.
Both sides have strong batting lineups, so the key to success may be who can get their bowling going quickly and effectively. Those keen on trying to predict this outcome might just need to dust off the crystal ball.
India focuses on bowling
Most of the Indian squad has been focused on the IPL in recent months, which is entirely the wrong place to fine-tune a bowling attack for the cooler and drier conditions (and different format) of southern England. But the team has begun practice in nearby Sussex, building their bowling workload and preparing for the final.
The pace bowlers will be looking for swing, while Ravichandran Ashwin will be honing his off-spin. According to sources, the squad is also heavily drilling the kind of close and slip catching that will win or lose the test — the IPL keeps everyone sharp on ground fielding.
Australia offers a big test
Rain or shine, cold or hot, flat or bumpy, Australia poses a big threat in any condition and in any format. India will need to have all aspects of their game and their tactics razor-sharp. The Aussies have a good scoring history at the Oval, and their order looks imposing — Usman Khawaja hit 195 not out against South Africa back in March, and David Warner made 200 off 255 balls in the preceding test.
The upcoming second WTC final looks to be an interesting match-up between two cricketing giants. And come June 7th in London, India or Australia will be crowned champions of International Test Cricket.