World Test Championship final: New Zealand defy resources to topple India

World Test Championship final: New Zealand defy resources to topple India

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If good things come to those who wait, New Zealand had done their fair share of waiting.

Ninety-one years since their first Test, having suffered heartache at the alter in the last two World Cup finals, the Black Caps are the inaugural Test champions of the world.

A country with a population of five million, downing an opposition that boasts 1.4 billion.

A cricket team with a turnover smaller than some English county clubs, against the sport’s ultimate superpower, backed with almost endless finances.

After a week of rain and gloom, a new chapter was written into cricket’s history books – on a sun-drenched day in Southampton.

As Indian wickets fell the roars were silenced. A drummer’s bhangra beat was replaced by the beer-fuelled chants from of a pocket of New Zealand fans among those in orange and blue.

A day earlier, those Black Caps fans had arrived wearing armbands and a snorkel but now, as the game’s pressure finally relented, they waved their shirts above their heads.

New Zealand fans
New Zealand fans were heavily outnumbered by India’s during the Test championship final but celebrated wildly as their side closed in on victory

Not even England’s biggest fan would bemoan them for borrowing and adapting their favourite song as “cricket’s coming home” echoed around the emptying Hampshire Bowl.

After a day of tension, of calculating and time-keeping, New Zealand – little New Zealand – the perennial bridesmaid, the team always kept away from cricket’s top table, had their big day.

This was as much a clash of styles as a tussle between big and small. India, the epitome of a cricket’s modern-day superstars, against cricket’s quiet guys.

A tussle between steadiness and flair, discipline and celebrity.

India captain Virat Kohli has an Instagram following that makes David Beckham look like David Brent, with sponsors at every turn. A trip to New Zealand captain Kane Williamson’s profile leaves you wishing you owned his dog.

Although quiet in this game Jasprit Bumrah’s unconventional brilliance makes him one of the biggest names in cricket. The most unorthodox thing about New Zealand is the 6ft 8in frame of fast bowler, Kyle Jamieson.

Opener Rohit Sharma can dominate, exuding the power of a dad playing with his kids. Tom Latham manages to deflect the spotlight as well as an 85mph in-swinger.

Rishabh Pant, the India wicketkeeper who showed a glimpse of his attacking talent in this game, is as exciting a talent as there is right now, while his opposite number BJ Watling, who retired after the game, built a career on a more calm and patient approach

After their steady rise over recent years – a run that has culminated in this win after earlier this month inflicting England’s first home defeat in seven years – some had New Zealand as favourites for the final, at worst it was seen as a 50:50 shot.

Underdogs as a nation, Williamson has ensured on the field this team can compete with anyone.

They know what they can do and do it well. They play to their own strengths, never tempted to do otherwise by flashier opponents.

Williamson is the stardust who makes the who thing possible with his world-class batting. Jamieson is, on recent evidence, a bowler to be feared.

Opener Devon Conway, the cast-off turned key performer, rejected in South Africa and chasing his dream with New Zealand aged 29, must have wondered if this chance would ever come.

Neil Wagner is another to have made the move from South Africa. Had he been in the English game he’d likely have been shunned for being ‘too slow’ but sits fifth in the Test bowling world rankings.

How England would love a batter like Henry Nicholls. He averages more than anyone in England’s current XI bar Joe Root, but still even the most loyal cricket fan would struggle to pick him out of a crowded room.

Williamson said it best at Wednesday’s post-match presentation.

“We know we don’t always have the stars,” he said.

“We rely on others bits and pieces to stay in games and be competitive. We saw a lot of heart and a lot of commitment.”

New Zealand reached the final by churning out big batting totals on flat home pitches and then throwing the ball to their bowlers to do the rest.

They may not take the headlines but they will do the basics better than anyone more often than not.

No-one represents New Zealand’s understated quality better than Williamson.

In a press conference he will answer question after question politely and attentively without ever giving journalists drama to feed off.

He exudes calmness when everything around him can be the opposite.

There was a period in the field during Wednesday’s dramatic play that he rarely spoke to his bowler and seldom gave vocal encouragement to his team.

Instead, he stood quietly observing from his fielding position, his arms occasionally going from folded across his chest to held behind his back.

The comparison to his opposite number Virat Kohli could not be more stark. Kohli is India’s livewire, the pounding heartbeat of the team.

He is everywhere. Always in a batsman’s face and never still, in Southampton both dancing to the India fans’ beat and, having taken a catch, gesturing to the crowd with his finger on lips.

In contrast, Williamson gives away nothing.

Even when his side’s historic winning moment came, the biggest victory as a cricketing nation, Williamson’s reaction only broke character for a moment – a hint of a leap into the air – before hugging his experienced batting partner Ross Taylor.

The slightest glimpse of emotion was the most Williamson had shown all day.

New Zealand need wait no more. They are now the headline act.

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