The one-off match at the Rose Bowl marks the culmination of a two-year cycle of the WTC, which was launched in 2019 to create Test cricket’s own pinnacle event.
The governing International Cricket Council (ICC) wanted the championship to bring relevance and context to Test cricket and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said it had been a success.
“I think we saw it at the end of the competition, teams trying to push their case for qualifying which made way for a lot of exciting results,” the 30-year-old said last week.
“We saw in Australia, in New Zealand, a lot of teams had a chance to get through.”
New Zealand are looking to shed the bridesmaids tag in big finals, having finished runners-up at the last two 50-overs World Cups.
They were particularly unlucky in 2019 when England won the title via a now-scrapped boundary-count rule after the final ended in a tie even after a Super Over.
The WTC final presents them with another opportunity to become world champions and they look ready to grasp their chance, signalling their preparedness with a 1-0 series victory against England.
Particularly impressive was how the team under stop-gap captain Tom Latham, having made six changes to their squad, triumphed by eight wickets inside four days in Edgbaston.
By contrast, India have not played a Test match since March and are yet to win an ICC trophy under skipper Virat Kohli.
The importance of the WTC final was not lost on the 32-year-old.
“This holds a lot of value, especially this being the first of its kind and in the toughest format,” Kohli said before leaving for England.
“This is like the accumulation of all the hard work of not just the duration of the championship but the last five-six years.”
The WTC final could prove to be a contest between India’s star-studded batting line-up and New Zealand’s versatile pace attack armed with the fast-swinging Dukes ball.
With an animated Kohli and a phlegmatic Williamson leading their troops, the final will also be a clash of contrasting leadership styles.
Ashwin, Jadeja named in India squad for WTC final
The ICC is happy with how the WTC generated more interest in Test cricket.
“It was obvious that the interest in certain series wasn’t just restricted to the two teams involved,” ICC acting CEO Geoff Allardice told a virtual news conference on Monday.
“It was coming from all over the cricketing world and I think to bring that sort of context to Test cricket is a real step forward.”
New Zealand clear Williamson, Watling for WTC final against India
Factbox on the World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand, which begins on Friday:
June 18-22 (11:00 local/10:00 GMT)
Rose Bowl, Southampton (4,000 restricted capacity)
Winner: $1.6 million
MATCH OFFICIALS (all English)
Umpires: Michael Gough, Richard Illingworth
Third umpire: Richard Kettleborough
Match referee: Chris Broad
World ranking: 2
Coach: Ravi Shastri
Captain: Virat Kohli
Squad: Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant, R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Wriddhiman Saha.
World ranking: 1
Coach: Gary Stead
Captain: Kane Williamson
Squad: Williamson, 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, Will Young.
HOW DID THEY QUALIFY?
The top nine Test teams were originally scheduled to play six series each over two years, with the top two making the showcase final. But after the COVID-19 pandemic halted the game last year, the governing International Cricket Council decided to rank teams based on percentage of points (PCT) earned from completed matches, instead of total points, to determine the finalists.
India topped the WTC standings with 72.2 PCT after collecting 520 points. New Zealand were second at 70 PCT with 420, pipping England, who collected more points (442) but had a lower PCT (61.4).
INDIA’S ROAD TO FINAL
West Indies v India – India won the series 2-0
India v South Africa – India won 3-0
India v Bangladesh – India won 2-0
New Zealand v India – India lost 2-0
Australia v India – India won 2-1
India v England – India won 3-1
NEW ZEALAND’S ROAD TO FINAL
Sri Lanka v New Zealand – Drew 1-1
Australia v New Zealand – New Zealand lost 3-0
New Zealand v India – New Zealand won 2-0
New Zealand v West Indies – New Zealand won 2-0
New Zealand v Pakistan – New Zealand won 2-0
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
2020: New Zealand won by seven wickets (Christchurch)
2020: New Zealand won by 10 wickets (Wellington)
2016: India won by 321 runs (Indore)
2016: India won by 178 runs (Kolkata)
2016: India won by 197 runs (Kanpur)