When New Zealand kicked off their World Test Championship campaign with a loss against Sri Lanka, it wasn’t expected that they would make it to the final of the competition. However, their sheer home dominance, against India, West Indies and Pakistan, combined with the new rules made it possible.
Finish on WTC table - 2nd (420 points)
Series wins - 2-0 against IND (H), 2-0 against WI (H), 2-0 against PAK (H)
Series draws - 1-1 against SL (A)
Series losses - 0-3 against AUS (A)
New Zealand kicked off their World Test Championship campaign in the toughest of places for visitors - Sri Lanka - where teams often have difficulties tackling the deteriorating conditions. In Galle, the BlackCaps got themselves off with a reality check, a loss, a resounding one against the hosts by six wickets, losing 60 crucial points. However, they were quick off the box in the second fixture, winning by an innings and 65 runs to put their campaign back on track.
Three months later, they found themselves on another tough tour, this time - Australia. Australia had just cruised past Pakistan, both on the pitch and off the pitch, with their scintillating display. Not just that, Tim Paine’s side were in a rage of confidence, having picked up the ‘Urn before knocking Pakistan’s fragile Test past them. New Zealand had a similar fate, they were beaten, trounced or even left with a scar, following the three consecutive loss against Australia.
Yet, that fixture was crucial for them, in the larger scheme of things - they unearthed Kyle Jamieson post the series, they had finally identified their struggles at the top of the order, bringing in Tom Blundell to open the innings with Tom Latham, with Jeet Raval struggling. Against India, all of their departments, batting, bowling and fielding worked as they clinically put the Indian challenge past them, posing plenty of questions to Virat Kohli and co.
As COVID-19 had its effect, New Zealand too were without cricket for a long period of time before West Indies and Pakistan came by the shore. Against West Indies, New Zealand pulled off an ‘Australia’ winning both the game by an innings, which also happened to be the making of Jamieson - the superstar. He was no more a mere debutant, as his all-round display had indeed caught the attention of world media. While Pakistan tried their level best, it was just not worth it, as they lost both the Tests in convincing fashion, as they did against Australia, which incidentally also helped New Zealand achieve their highest-ranking in Test cricket, No.1.
Most Runs - Kane Williamson - 817 runs @58.35
59.8% of Kane Williamson’s total runs in the World Test Championship campaign has come off two innings - 251 against West Indies and 238 against Pakistan - both at home. Barring that, Williamson has struggled for the most part of the tournament, with scores of 0, 4, 20, 34, 14, 9 and 0 in his first seven innings. His next innings, however, an 89 helped New Zealand post a good total against India in an easy win for the BlackCaps.
Since cricket resumed, post the COVID-19 situation, Williamson’s form took off in the series against West Indies, where he posted an individual score of 251, against the pace attack of Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Jason Holder and Alzarri Joseph. His innings ensured that he was the Man of the Match but later had to miss the second Test. He didn’t let that deteriorate his form, with a 129 on his return against Pakistan in Mount Maunganui.
To top it all, Williamson brought out his second double-century of the home season, a 238 against Pakistan, another pace attack that brimmed with confidence. Overall, when the Kiwi right-hander got off, he really went on to make a monumental score but as it turned out, the two innings formed 60% of his entire total in the World Test Championship.
Most Wickets - Tim Southee - 51 wickets @20.66
In contrast, Tim Southee was an ever-present figure, an ever-reliable figure in the New Zealand Test setup, alongside Neil Wagner. In the World Test Championship, Southee finds himself fifth on the table, just behind Australia’s Nathan Lyon, who has picked five wickets more than him, with 56. Arguably, out of the top-five, the Kiwi pacer has just thrown down 390 overs, across 20 innings, where he picked up 51 wickets, all at an average of 20.66, second-best in the competition.
After starting it with a lull against Sri Lanka, the experienced figure of Southee picked up a four-fer in the second Test, leading New Zealand to a crucial away win in Sri Lanka. Against Australia, he was ever-present, with 12 wickets in the two games that he played. The Indian tour forms one of the high points of Southee’s season, with 14 wickets in just two encounters against one of the best batting units in the world.
From thereon, wickets kept coming his way, 12 against West Indies across two Tests and six against Pakistan in the same amount of Tests. With 51 wickets, Southee would be vital to New Zealand’s chances against Indian, an opponent that he knows well.