|| CF DESK ||
New Zealand will be full of confidence in the highly anticipated World Test Championship (WTC) final against India at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, after winning the two-match Test series against England and, more crucially, acclimating to English conditions.
Here are five Kiwi names to watch out ahead of the final-
Kane Williamson (C)
Williamson did not play in the Edgbaston Test after suffering an injury to his left elbow in the first Test against England. On the other hand, Williamson is anticipated to be healthy for the final and has been named in the 15-man squad by head coach Gary Stead.
The Kiwi captain, the world's top-ranked Test batsman, can absorb great strain and bring a sense of serenity to the center of the field. He amassed 817 runs from 14 innings, the most by any Black Cap batsman in the WTC, while maintaining a superb average of 58.35.
Williamson, like his Indian counterpart Virat Kohli, focuses on time more than physical force. For the opposition bowlers, his watertight technique against the moving ball and his ability to effectively play spin make him a difficult nut to crack.
Williamson would eventually break the curse and win an ICC title in the inaugural WTC, following the heartbreaks of the 2015 and 2019 World Cups.
India will be mindful of middle-order batsman Ross Taylor, who has been a key component of the Black Caps' batting for more than a decade across all forms.
He is the most experienced member of the current side and has the most runs versus India — 812 runs from 14 matches, including three centuries and a half-century.
Taylor's expertise, which he brings to the table with an average of 45.76 and 107 appearances, is crucial to the Black Caps. However, the veteran hasn't been at his best recently, with only two innings in which he has scored more than 50 runs.
As a result, the 37-year-old will be eager to show that he still has petrol in the tank.
Tim Southee, who will lead the Kiwi pace attack, has been in sensational form in the WTC, taking 51 wickets in ten games. He was rested for the second Test against England to make room for reserve players, but he made the first Test count with seven wickets, including a 6/43 session.
With his ability to move the ball in the air and off the seam, the Black Caps' third-highest wicket-taker in Tests can be dangerous. He is likely to pose some difficult questions to the Indian batter, given his expertise and recent form. He has also been Virat Kohli's arch-enemy, dismissing the Indian captain 10 times, the most by any bowler in international cricket.
Furthermore, the circumstances in England appear to be ideal for his type of swing bowling, making him a player to watch.
Trent Boult's left-arm angle gives variation to the Kiwi speed attack, and he's effective at moving the ball both ways. Up front, he and Southee constitute a menacing duo.
With 34 wickets from nine matches, the 31-year-old has been the Black Caps' third-highest wicket-taker in the WTC. He recently took six wickets against England in the second Test.
Boult certainly enjoys bowling in England, as evidenced by his 27 wickets from five matches at an average of 22.40.
If a greenish top is set up at Southampton, Boult, a shrewd customer, could prove to be a huge stumbling block for the Indian batsmen.
When you have players like Boult and Southee on your side, it's easy to overlook Kyle Jamieson. Even though he is only in the early stages of his international career, India will be making a mistake if they overlook the 6ft 8inch pacer.
In Test cricket, he has 39 wickets in seven matches at an average of 15.15, including four five-fors and a 10-wicket match haul.
Jamieson troubled Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara in the series against India on home soil last year, where he made his debut. Kohli will be well aware of Jamieson's ability, having played alongside him at RCB in 2021.
He extracts additional bounce from the pitch because to his towering body, and he might cause problems for the Indian batters with some short stuff.