New Zealand captain Kane Williamson credited his side’s heart and fighting spirit for helping them reach the pinnacle of Test cricket by winning the first-ever ICC World Test Championship Final.
On an entertaining final day’s cricket at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, New Zealand’s bowlers skittled India for 170 to leave them hunting 139 for victory.
This was no formality on a lively surface but despite both Black Caps openers falling to Ravichandran Ashwin, the experience of Williamson (52 not out) and Ross Taylor (47 not out) saw them battle home with eight wickets to spare.
It was just the second major international trophy won by New Zealand in their history, following their ICC Knock Out triumph back in 2000, leaving the skipper – who also praised the ICC’s provision of a reserve day that allowed a result to be reached on day six – ecstatic.
“It was the pinnacle – being involved in the Final against a formidable side like India,” said Williamson.
“They certainly showed their quality and for us, it was a lot of heart that allowed us to stay in the game for long periods.
“A lot of credit to the way our group adjusted and stayed in the battle because it was a battle. No-one with the bat got momentum at any point in time – the ball kept going past the outside edge and there were always opportunities.
“To have the sixth day as back-up due to weather was a good initiative and to see both teams have a real opportunity to win meant for a fantastic game.
“It’s a proud moment in our history and a proud moment as a team to stick to what we do well and come away with the win, which is a really great feeling.”
It was fitting that Williamson and Taylor – two of New Zealand’s most experienced batsmen who have played almost 200 Test matches between them – saw the Black Caps over the line with an unbeaten partnership of 96.
And the captain admits having such a veteran alongside him at the crease helped take the pressure off.
“It was fantastic to be part of a partnership and contribution like that,” added Williamson. “With Ross being our most experienced player and a leader in the group, it was nice to be able to soak up some of the pressure.
“Having an experienced head like Ross out there was helpful. It was a really special feeling to be there at the end together and to tick the runs off.
“Even though it was only 130-odd, on that surface you never felt comfortable.”
India struggled for runs on a seaming wicket throughout the contest but battled hard until the very end and made New Zealand work to reach their fourth innings target.
And skipper Virat Kohli paid tribute to the Black Caps’ pace bowlers, who restricted India’s formidable batting line-up – taking the final eight wickets for just 100 runs on day six.
“They were very consistent, they’re a very effective side, we’ve seen that over the years, and they’re a very structured side,” said Kohli.
“They like to play their cricket in a certain manner, so you have to find ways to disrupt that. If you don’t put their bowlers under pressure then they have the fitness and the consistency to keep bowling in the same areas and bowling all day.
“The more momentum you give them, invariably they get the breakthroughs they want. We need to focus on scoring runs and not worry about getting out in testing conditions.
“That’s the only way you can put the opposition under pressure, otherwise you’re just literally standing there, hoping you don’t get out and eventually you will because you’re not being optimistic enough.
“You have to take more risks, and calculated risks, and be confident about taking them.”