After a rough start to life in the ICC World Test Championship, New Zealand were the first team to qualify for the inaugural final.
We look back at their road to the decider.
Sri Lanka 1 – New Zealand 1, August 2019
New Zealand’s road to the World Test Championship final got off to a rocky start in Sri Lanka. Playing in Galle, New Zealand slumped to a six-wicket defeat as captain Kane Williamson registered the rarest of ducks.
But an impressive bounce back in the second Test ensured New Zealand did not leave the subcontinent empty-handed. Off the back of centuries from Tom Latham (154) and BJ Watling (104 not out), the Kiwis stormed home to an innings and 65 run win, levelling the two-Test series 1-1.
That saw Williamson’s side head home with 60 points in the WTC or – as would later become key – 50 per cent of the points available to them.
All to play for in the upcoming India v England series with three teams able to meet New Zealand in the final of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship!— ICC (@ICC) February 2, 2021
Here's the breakdown, assuming a full 4-Test series with no ties and no further matches involving NZ or Australia 👇 #WTC21 pic.twitter.com/TTZFkPd1Ex
Australia 3 – New Zealand 0, December-January 2019-20
New Zealand’s hopes of making the WTC final were damaged badly during a horror tour of Australia.
They crossed the Tasman with mounting expectations but were soundly defeated 3-0 in the end.
In fairness to the Black Caps, they ran into an Australian team in serious form. Marnus Labuschagne averaged 91.50 and scored two centuries including a double. David Warner and Travis Head each scored centuries of their own, and with the ball Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins all averaged less than 20.
While New Zealand finished that tour with their chances of making the WTC final looking slim, there were a couple of silver linings. Tom Blundell scored the second century of his career in the Boxing Day Test and Tim Southee took 5/69 in the series opener. That was the first of three five-wicket hauls Southee would take in the WTC.
At the end of the series, New Zealand still had only the 60 points, 25 per cent of what was available to them.
New Zealand 🆚 _______?— ICC (@ICC) February 2, 2021
One spot is up for grabs for all of India, England, and Australia to make it to the ICC World Test Championship final.
Find out more about the #WTC21 qualification scenarios 👇
New Zealand 2 – India 0, February 2020
New Zealand did not have to wait too much longer for more points though, beating Virat Kohli’s India 2-0 at home. That is two of the three losses India have suffered so far in the WTC.
Going into the two-match series, India had won all seven games of their WTC campaign, dealing out whitewashes to the West Indies, Bangladesh and South Africa.
But they quickly found themselves on the backfoot against New Zealand, suffering a 10-wicket loss at Wellington where they failed to pass 200 in either innings. Southee (4/49) and debutant Kyle Jamieson (4/39) shared eight wickets in India’s first innings and the veteran helped himself to 5/69 in the second innings to leave New Zealand needing to chase just nine runs to win.
Jamieson backed up his fine debut with a five-wicket haul in the second Test (5/45) and by the match’s fourth innings, New Zealand were chasing a potentially tricky target of 132. A 103-run opening stand between Latham (52) and Blundell (55) ensured they got the job done with a minimum of fuss.
New Zealand finished the series with 180 points, 50 per cent of what was available to them at that point.
It is series result the Black Caps will hope bodes well for this week's final against the same opponents.
India qualify if...— ICC (@ICC) February 2, 2021
England qualify if...
Australia qualify if...
New Zealand 2 – West Indies 0, December 2020
It was another 10 months before New Zealand played another match in the WTC, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the cricket calendar.
With several series needing to be postponed throughout 2020, the ICC announced in November that the WTC finalists would be determined through the percentage of points earned rather than total points.
At this stage, New Zealand sat fourth on percentage points (50), behind England (60.83), India (75) and Australia (82.22).
Having made up ground with their 2-0 win over India in February, New Zealand resumed their march to the final by beating the West Indies 2-0 at home.
Captain Williamson led the way in the series opener, scoring a momentous 251 at Hamilton, walking off to a standing ovation from the crowd and handshakes from most of the West Indies line-up. That proved the backbone of New Zealand’s total of 519/7 and an eventual innings and 134 run win.
Williamson sat out the second Test for the birth of his first child, but New Zealand found a way to get the job done without him.
Henry Nicholls stepped up with a big century (174) to help New Zealand to a total of 460, and five-wicket hauls from Southee (5/32) and Jamieson (5/34) in the first innings paved the way for an innings and 12 run victory.
For the third straight series New Zealand picked up all 120 points up for grabs, taking their percentage up 62.5 per cent.
ICYMI: The proposed #SAvAUS series has been postponed, with Cricket Australia citing the Covid-19 situation in South Africa as a deterrent.— ICC (@ICC) February 2, 2021
New Zealand 2 – Pakistan 0, December-January 2020-21
New Zealand continued their winning streak when Pakistan toured, registering yet another 2-0 series win.
Returning from the birth of his child, Williamson was at the heart of his team’s success against the touring Pakistan outfit.
The captain started the series with a century (129) to set up a 101-run win at Mount Maunganui, and he took things a step further with a double-century (238) in the second Test, making it three hundreds in his past three matches.
Incredibly, he was still outshone in the second Test, with young quick Jamieson taking 11 wickets for the match (5/69, 6/48) to be named player of the match in an innings and 176 run win.
The 120 points collected took New Zealand’s haul to 420 and crucially their percentage of available points up to 70.
It also saw New Zealand rise to the top of the ICC's Test rankings - a spot they would reclaim from India after beating England 1-0 in June.
By the end of Australia’s 2-1 series loss to India, that was enough to see New Zealand rise to second on the WTC standings.
Now all that is left to see is if they can come out on top in the final against India.
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