Gear up for the Ultimate Test. It's Virat Kohli's India taking on Kane Williamson's New Zealand in the final of the inaugural World Test Championship, in Southampton. Here's ESPNcricinfo's live updates - please refresh your page for the latest, or click here.
That is that then. As expected, we haven't had the toss today. We will start tomorrow as if it is a five-day Test but we will play half an hour extra on each of the first four days. Provided we have enough good weather. The forecast for tomorrow is good for the first half of the day. Remember if India feel like changing the XI they named, they absolutely can. New Zealand have another day to make that call looking at how the conditions are tomorrow morning. I am off to watching Shafali Verma now. See you tomorrow
They have actually had an inspection in Southampton, and if it remains dry there will be another inspection at 3pm. Not holding my breath.
The sixth day is technically available for use. Two-and-a-half hours of play has been lost, and at best we can make up only that much in the coming five days. So if required, we can now go into the sixth day.
It has stoped raining for a while, but there is more around, we hear. If there is no toss today, it will not have any bearing on the follow-on margin because it will still start as a five-day Test. If there is no toss tomorrow either, of which chances are little, only then does the follow-on margin come down to 150.
With that, I leave you with a photo of Andrew Miller's dessert plate.
New Zealand haven't yet named their XI. In all likelihood, provided everyone is fit and available, New Zealand are debating between Colin de Grandhomme and Ajaz Patel. The seam-bowling allrounder or the lone specialist spinner. The more it rains, the less likely it becomes for Patel to make it. But is the choice restricted to these two? The more it rains, the more Matt Henry becomes a temptation although still only an outside chance. If they get Henry in, there is no let-up in the change-up bowling too. Let us know who you think should play given the other 10 are: Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner and Trent Boult
Kohli v Williamson: as seen by Dale Steyn
One man charges at you, hitting you before you can move the ball. The other makes you feel like he is 30 yards away. No prizes for guessing who is who
Those who didn't make it
Mohammed Siraj. Hanuma Vihari. Wriddhiman Saha. Mayank Agarwal. Prithvi Shaw. Umesh Yadav. Axar Patel. Washington Sundar. They have all made a significant contribution in India getting to the WTC final. As the tables will show, India have played more Test cricket than New Zealand, which means there is more attrition. So India have had to test their bench strength much more than New Zealand.
Unfortunately only 11 can play the final, and India have named theirs a day before the toss (or, by the looks of it, two days before it). The contribution of those who didn't make the final shows how robust Indian cricket is right now. And the quality of those who have made it, there is no shame in losing out to them.
Not a fan of naming the team so early, especially when you know there is a fair chance the toss won't take place on day one. Having said that, this is not a written legal affidavit. If the toss happens tomorrow, and India feel they need an extra seamer given the seam-friendly conditions, they can change the XI. They can change it today also if they so desire. It is what you name at the toss that counts.
Best possible WTC given constraints
There has been a lot said - mostly in derision - about the format, about the points system, about everything in this WTC. "How can a home Test against Bangladesh carry the same weightage as an Ashes Test?" "Why are away wins worth the same as home wins?" "Oh the changes midway made it difficult for my team."
Since we have time to pontificate now, allow me a moment. I will keep it quick since this is a Live Report. I felt a bit of the same at the start but then I looked at it from the ICC's point of view. You think the Big Three were going to let go of the scheduling imbalance just for the WTC? Besides, in an ODI World, you do get the same points for beating Bangladesh as you do for beating England, don't you? Here you are getting the same points for a series.
In no World Cup are away wins given more weightage anyway. And if you do down that route, the next question will be, why is an away win in Bangladesh worth the same as an away win in India? The format as is is a fair and objective way to go insofar as the FTP allows. In a cycle, each team plays three home series and three away. In some cycles, you will get tough away tours - as India did this cycle - and in some others you might get easier ones.
Regarding the changes midway, well suck it up. We live in a Covid-19 world. We must be thankful that we have got to watch what we have. Percentage of total points contested is not an unfair way to decide the finalists without moving the final into 2022. And there is no way that you can objectively and demonstratively say that the changes made it difficult for India to go through. It is not unreasonable to think that Australia and New Zealand would have done well on their tours of South Africa and Bangladesh. Just as it is not unreasonable to think they might not have won more than 70% of the points contested. However, the fact is, had those tours gone ahead, there is an even chance India might have missed out on this final. As things stand, though, India have qualified with the highest percentage of points won, and no one who has watched Test cricket for the last four years will disagree with that standing either.
The only sour note is a one-off Test to decide the winner, but how can it be helped? There is just not enough time in the schedule to fit in a three-Test series. What can help is the success of this cycle and the possible broadcast interest, the only way to open up a window. Then again I am not holding my breath.
If it were left to me, I'd do away with the finals, but cricket has this weird fetish for knockouts.
Southampton is a port city. They have live box cameras at the port terminal. Since early this morning India time, which is late night Southampton time, the stream has been taken over by cricket fans to see if it has stopped raining. We are not going to link to them because this is not a welcome presence on their feed. They have had to warn cricket fans they will be blocked if they keep asking them for weather updates or chat cricket in their live chat. Here is a picture of google search interest in "southampton weather" over the last month.
The host broadcaster in India streamed the Viat Kohli pre-match presser live. There were wraparound shows to analyse the press conference. Before India left for England about a month ago, there was a general throwaway off-the-record line before their departure press conference from Virat Kohli to Ravi Shastri - unaware that the camera was on - seemingly on how Siraj can be used against New Zealand, who were batting against England at the time of that press conference. Since then, fans on Twitter in India have done animated debates on who will make way for Siraj.
New Zealand rested at least three first-choice players in a live rubber in England - a Test series there being the holy grail for them - to have them fresh for the WTC final in Southampton.
It might not quite be the panacea for all the ills in cricket and Test cricket, but this mania round the final tells you the WTC has been a success despite its flaws. It helps that India are in the final, but the interest in New Zealand is not insignificant. This tournament is actually the best the ICC could have managed given all the selfish interests of the member boards and the commercial demands of the times.
As you know by now, we have run into unfortunate weather and the toss - scheduled at 10am, half an hour from now - is not likely to take place on time. For more immediate updates and commentary, we have our excellent ball-by-ball commentary over here. For a more of a considered analysis, and all other distractions, here is Sidharth Monga bringing you the Live Report