Player battles
World Test Championship

Five key player battles that could decide the WTC Final

World Test Championship

Hit For Six!

We take a look at five head-to-head match-ups that will prove pivotal in deciding whether Australia or India come out on top in the ICC World Test Championship final at The Oval.

1. Rohit Sharma (equal #11 ranked Test batter) v Pat Cummins (#3 ranked Test bowler)

The battle between the two skippers could well be where the World Test Championship mace is won and lost as both players are just as destructive in their craft than their opposing counterpart.

Rohit remains India's most destructive Test batter - his superb century in the opening Test of the recent Border-Gavaskar series really set the tone for India's series triumph - but Cummins should certainly not be underestimated in his capabilities.

Video World Test Championship 06 Jun 23
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India captain Rohit Sharma and Australia skipper Pat Cummins discuss the ICC World Test Championship Final at the Captains' Photo event with Sanjana Ganesan ahead of the decider at The Oval

The Australia captain bowls fast and his ability to hit that nagging length and get the ball to smash into the top of off stump troubles the best batters in the world.

Cummins only managed to play two Tests of Australia's tour of the sub-continent earlier this year and the inspirational skipper may well have a point to prove against Rohit and India.

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2. Steve Smith (#3 ranked Test batter) v Virat Kohli (#13 ranked Test batter) 

Virat Kohli vs Steve Smith could very well be dubbed as the battle of the two Goliaths. Both belonging to the Class of 2008, the two have since gone on to rewrite the history books of international cricket.

While both are run-machines in their own rights, the way in which they accumulate them are poles apart. Kohli, hailed as the next big thing during his initial days, has technique right out of the Test match textbooks. Smith, a spin bowler turned batter, has batting idiosyncrasies never seen before in Test cricket but has found a way to make it work for him.

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Form is unlikely to be a factor for Kohli and Smith, with players displaying in the past their ability to show up when their team need them the most. However, in the most recent clash between the two in the Border-Gavaskar series, it was Kohli who came up trumps, striking his first Test century in more than three years in the fourth match in Ahmedabad.

Smith, though, has the upper hand playing in English conditions, averaging 59.55 while scoring 1727 runs in 16 matches compared to Kohli’s average of 33.32 and 1033 runs in the same number of matches.

Given their influence and impact, Steve Smith vs. Virat Kohli could decide the outcome of the World Test Championship Final.

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3. Ravichandran Ashwin (#1 ranked Test bowler) v Nathan Lyon (#8 ranked Test bowler)

Two off-spinners, two wily old foxes, two of the best in the modern generation – both captains will be looking at Ravichandran Ashwin and Nathan Lyon to tilt the scales in their favour during the World Test Championship Final.

The most recent Border-Gavaskar series was a precursor to what Ashwin and Lyon are capable of. Both the bowlers were among the top-two wicket-takers, with Ashwin scalping 25 wickets and Lyon bagging 22.

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There’s not much to separate the two in the all-time wicket-takers list either - Lyon is 8th on the list with 482 wickets to his name in 119 matches while Ashwin is breathing down his neck at 9th with 474 scalps in 92 Tests.

Though both the players are right-arm finger spinners, both have very different ways of making batters dance to their tunes. While Ashwin possesses a vast repertoire of deliveries, Lyon has proved to be the more traditional office of the two, relying on his accuracy and ability to generate bounce and spin on surfaces that don’t have much for spinners.

While pacers are likely to grab all the headlines at The Oval, the important overs of spin bowled by the off-spinners could very well determine the destiny of the mace.

4. Usman Khawaja (#7 ranked Test batter) v Mohammad Shami (#20 ranked Test bowler)

Early breakthroughs with the new ball are going to be crucial for India's chances and it's Shami that must step up in the absence of pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah and do the majority of the damage.

And it's the scalp of Khawaja that India will want most, with the in-form Australian the second leading run-scorer behind England’s Joe Root over the 2021-23 World Test Championship period with 1608 runs and again among the runs when topping the run charts (333) during the recent Border-Gavaskar series on the sub-continent.

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Shami will likely try and seek the edge of Khawaja's bat outside off stump and the sight of the left-hander heading back to the pavilion early will be pivotal for India.

5. Marnus Labuschagne (#1 ranked Test batter) v Ravindra Jadeja (#1 ranked Test all-rounder)

A mouth-watering match-up for the ages as the No.1 ranked Test batter in the world takes on the No.1 ranked all-rounder with both currently at the top of their game.

Labuschagne has reigned at the top of the MRF Tyres Test Batting rankings since December last year, while Jadeja has held on to the premier spot for all-rounders for more than 15 months now.

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Jadeja terrorised Australia's star-studded batting line-up with 22 wickets at an average of just 18.86 on home soil during four Tests in India earlier this year, but the left-armer has never been able to have the same impact on English soil in the past and has never registered a Test five-wicket haul in England over his glittering career.

While Labuschagne wasn't quite at his brilliant best during the Border-Gavaskar series this year - 244 runs at an average of 40 is slightly under-par for his lofty standards - the right-hander is a quick learner and will have done his homework on how to handle Jadeja and the dangerous India bowlers.


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