New Zealand are ICC World Test Champions after beating India inside the final hour of a nail-biting reserve day at the Hampshire Bowl, wrapping up an eight-wicket win with a boundary from Ross Taylor.
Kane Williamson and Taylor calmed New Zealand nerves during a chase of 139 from 53 overs – a target that was just testing enough to give India a chance, particularly after Ravichandran Ashwin had dismissed both openers in a dangerous spell after tea.
But Williamson (52*) and Taylor (47*) bided their time and built a match-winning partnership of 96, with Taylor hitting the winning runs to ensure that New Zealand win the first-ever World Test Championship mace.
India began the sixth day 32 runs ahead, on 64/2, with Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara at the crease, and with all results still possible.
New Zealand knew that they needed a fair helping of wickets in the morning session, and Kyle Jamieson got them off to a superb start, tempting Kohli into a nibble that BJ Watling, playing in his final ever Test, gratefully grabbed behind the stumps.
And the big Kiwi bowler struck again in his very next over, luring a rare waft out of Pujara to get the edge, with Ross Taylor taking a good catch in the cordon.
Jamieson’s double scalp meant India had lost two wickets for just eight runs at the start of the session but also brought Rishabh Pant to the crease.
And the dangerous wicketkeeper-batter had New Zealand sweating for a while as he set about building a menacing partnership with Ajinkya Rahane that took India past 100.
Rahane fell, but India went in at the interval on 130/5 and with a lead of 98, with New Zealand in need of another flurry in the afternoon session.
Virat Kohli 🤝 BJ Watling— ICC (@ICC) June 23, 2021
A nice gesture from the Indian skipper congratulating the @BLACKCAPS wicket-keeper on the final day of his international career 🙌#WTC21 Final | #INDvNZ | #SpiritOfCricket pic.twitter.com/zcI47UFPAp
A bracing spell of short-pitched bowling from Neil Wagner finally reaped rewards when Jadeja edged behind for a patient 16, but India continued to soak up deliveries as Pant looked to stretch the fourth innings target.
Pant looked to accelerate the scoring as the afternoon went on, but his positivity proved his undoing as Trent Boult took the key wicket, tempting Pant into a huge sliced heave that was superbly taken over his shoulder by Henry Nicholls at point.
And Ashwin fell just two balls later, looked to hit the leather off a Boult seamer and succeeding only in edging it straight to Taylor at first slip.
Mohammed Shami came out swinging in hope of adding some quick runs to the target, as the required run-rate for the chase crept up over 2.5. But, after three boundaries, his brief onslaught was brought to an end by Tim Southee, and Jasprit Bumrah fell without scoring in the same over.
India’s innings had seen them lose eight wickets for 106 runs on the day and left New Zealand needing a gettable 139 in 53 overs.
India needed wickets and quickly, but New Zealand’s opening pair did what they do best, taking the shine off the new ball and forcing Kohli to turn to his spinners with just ten overs gone.
Ashwin got the ball rolling, getting Tom Latham stumped by Pant for a sedate nine off 41 balls.
And the legendary off-spinner thought he’d taken the huge scalp of Williamson in his very next over, striking the captain on the pads and celebrating in style as umpire Michael Gough raised his finger. But Williamson reviewed and DRS showed the ball was not straightening enough, missing the stumps to give the No. 3 a reprieve.
Ashwin did get Devon Conway plumb in front shortly after, and the 34-year-old turned the screw with a tense spell that Williamson and new man Taylor did well to survive.
But New Zealand’s two premier batters rode out the storm and gradually accelerated the scoring rate as the game progressed into the last hour of the reserve day.
And, after Williamson had reached his half-century (only the second of the match on either side), it fell to Taylor to hit the winning runs.
Conway’s first-innings 54 proved to be the highest individual score in the Test, underlining the dominance and quality of the two bowling attacks. And while Southee’s 4/48 in India’s second innings and Shami’s 4/76 in New Zealand’s first were both impressive, it was the youngest and least experienced of all the bowlers on the show who was named Player of the Match in the final.
Jamieson’s figures were remarkable, as the 6’8” fast bowler tied India in knots in only his eighth Test. The 26-year-old picked up the fifth five-wicket haul of his fledgling career in the first innings and ended the match with overall figures of seven for 61 from 46 overs, of which 22 were maidens.
To put Jamieson’s bowling into context, of all the non-spinners to have bowled at least 25 overs in a Test in England in the last 41 years, none have been more economical than the Kiwi. You have to go as far back as Joel Garner at Trent Bridge in 1980 for more miserly figures in English conditions, high company indeed for the young man from Auckland.
"BJ Watling sums up what this team means," New Zealand's Southee said immediately after the famous victory.
"We wanted to send him off with a win at the start of the tour. He's been a tremendous part of the side, he's given this team everything he's had, couldn't be happier for him."
"We started this journey two years ago. To be sitting here as Champions is special," Southee added.
"There's a lot of hard work that has gone into it. Consistency comes to mind: consistency through performances, consistency in selection.
"We do a lot for each other. It's satisfying to achieve what we have."