Well, here we are! The stage is set. Players are ready. But many are still blissfully unaware that one of the biggest cricket matches in ages, featuring some of the biggest names in the game, starts on June 18 (Friday). It is the final of the inaugural edition of the ICC World Test Championship, between the top-ranked teams -- New Zealand and India -- in Southampton.
Test cricket, despite all its glory, remains devoid of a decisive match, that finale that decides the champions, not winners. Yes, there is the Ashes, competed by the so-called original rivals -- England and Australia, then there are other bitter rivalries.
But they are bilateral series, competed by two teams. So, the importance of a series, a tournament with the two finalists fighting for the title. It gives a whole new meaning to Test cricket, which is fighting for its survival. It forced the ICC to devise a format for the traditional format of the game, and they have nailed it.
READ: WTC Final - Key Stats
Now, we have the first big final. And there will be many more. With that here's how you can watch and follow the five-day cricket carnival in Southampton:
Match: ICC World Test Championship 2019–2021 final, between India and New Zealand
Days: June 18 to June 22, 2021
Time: 3:00 PM IST/ 10:30 AM Local
Venue: The Rose Bowl (Ageas Bowl), Southampton, England
Rankings: New Zealand - 1st; India - 2nd
TV Channels: India - Star Sports 1/HD, Star Sports 1 Hindi/HD, Star Sports 1 Tamil, Star Sports 1 Telugu, Star Sports 1 Kannada
Live Streaming: Disney+ Hotstar
For global telecast details, CLICK HERE. The ICC has made arrangements for the global audience to witness the showdown. Gazi TV in Bangladesh, RTA Sport in Afghanistan, Etisalat - CricLife in UAE, Sky Sports in New Zealand, Fox Sports in Australia, Supersport in Sub-Saharan Africa, Sky Sports in the UK. Fans in the US and Canada have an array of options, via Hotstar and Willow TV with ESPN+ exclusively for the US while Flow Sports will broadcast in the Caribbean. Yupp TV will provide live streaming in Pakistan.
India in Test: India have so far played 550 matches, winning 162 of those. They have lost 169 times. There were 218 draws and one tie. In the last ten matches, India have won, lost four and drawn once. Two of those have come against New Zealand.
New Zealand in Test: New Zealand have played 448 matches, winning 106. They have losst 175 times. There were 167 draws too. In the last ten matches, they have won seven, lost two and drawn one.
Head-to-head: They have met 59 times and India lead the head-to-head record 21-12. 26 matches have ended in draws. In the last ten meeting,s India have won six times, to Kiwis' three. And there was a draw too.
In the WTC, both the teams have played 59 matches each. India won 29, lost 12 and drew 26. New Zealand won 12, lost 21 and drew 26. New Zealand defeated India 2-0 in their WTC 'league' meetings.
Top performers In WTC
India: Most runs - Ajinkya Rahane (1095 runs), fifth overall; Most wickets - Ravichandran Ashwin (67 scalps), third overall; Highest score - Virat Kohli (254 not out), overall third.
New Zealand: Most runs - Kane Williamson (817 runs), overall 16th; Most wickets - Tim Southee (51 scalps), fifth overall; Highest score - Kane Williamson (251), overall fourth.
Top Performers In Test (India vs New Zealand) from the squad members
Most runs: Ross Taylor (812 runs in 25 innings), Virat Kohli (773 runs in 17 innings), Chetshwar Pujara (749 runs in 17 innings), Kane Williamson (728 runs in 20 innings), Ajinkya Rahane (600 in 13 innings).
Most wickets: Ravichandran Ashwin (48 wickets in 11 innings), Tim Southee (39 wickets in 15 innings), Trent Boult (36 wickets in 17 innings), Ishant Sharma (35 wickets in 13 innings), Mohammed Shami (23 wickets in 13 innings)
Venue Record: India have played twice in Southampton and lost both matches. New Zealand are yet to play a Test here.
Weather forecast: Well, according to weather.com, rain will play spoilsport in the World Test Championship final as Southampton is for thundershowers. It says, "on-and-off rainfall, thunder and cold winds are likely to impact the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, England. The thundershowers can disrupt many sessions throughout the game, with particularly high chances of a washout on at least one of the first four cricketing days. While one extra day has been reserved to make up for the time lost to bad weather, it may end up not being enough."
In that case, we may need to revisit the playing conditions.
Playing conditions: ICC has released a 98-page-long playing conditions rule book, which also covers possible rain implications.
India: Virat Kohli (Captain), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami.
New Zealand: To be announced.
India: Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vc), Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (wk).
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling (wk) and Will Young.
On-field Umpires: Richard Illingworth, Michael Gough
Match Referee: Chris Broad