Southampton, June 23
India's revered superstars failed to dazzle on the 'D-Day' as New Zealand's canny operators and their classy skipper Kane Williamson deservingly walked away with the inaugural World Test Championship title after a composed eight-wicket win in the final that exposed multiple frailties in Virat Kohli's team.
Just like that overcast morning at the Old Trafford two years back, India's batsmen fluffed their morning lines against a familiar opposition, albeit with the red Dukes, and were skittled out for 170 on the best day for batting in a game marred by inclement weather.
A target of 139 wasn't going to be difficult and Williamson (52 not out), after a brilliant match as captain, played sublime drives in a short chase on a balmy reserve day which was used to compensate for two days of cricket being lost to rain.
There was the trademark serene smile on his face which widened following a hug from his mate Ross Taylor (47 not out) in a very low-key celebration for a team that is high-profile in its own right.
Senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin's two early wickets raised hopes of a twist in the tale but Williamson and Taylor doused them one patient stroke at a time.
Perhaps the cricket Gods wanted a course correction for Williamson and his men, who were left high and dry during that evening at the Lord's where twist of cruel fate and horrible rules robbed them off deserving glory in the 2019 World Cup.
That was not to be the case on Wednesday when their bowlers choked India, who seemed to be in pursuit of a draw to lay their hands on the glittering mace.
Williamson's pacers completely rejected their idea and ensured that a World Cup had one winner and the deserving one at that.
For Kohli, this is the third failure in big ICC events after the 2017 Champions Trophy and the 2019 World Cup.
He might just have one more shot, which is the T20 World Cup this year, and failing to win that could warrant some changes in the team hierarchy.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is worshipped because of three ICC trophies and it was ironical that India's abject surrender happened on the same date on which the revered former skipper won the Champions Trophy in the same country eight summers back.
When India batted, it was only Rishabh Pant (41), who was ready to live and die by the sword while his seniors found it difficult to play the game of survival against the canniest of pace attacks.
By tea, India had another batting disaster with only 170 runs in their second innings leaving New Zealand with a target that they were expected to chase.
It was one of the worst batting performances on a good track with sun beating down.
Williamson is probably one of the few captains who have now got the Indian team out for less than 250 in six consecutive innings, a testimony to his brilliant cricketing acumen and near the perfect execution of plans by his bowlers.
Tim Southee (4/48) did the early damage with his swing bowling, Neil Wagner (1/44) bowled those hard "rib cage" overs coming round the stumps and Trent Boult (3/44), with his ability to bring it back into the left-hander, made for a brilliant few hours of Test cricket.
And then there was India's nemesis Kyle Jamieson (2/30), who got his "bunny" Kohli third time in three Tests and twice in one to put the icing on the cake.
Pant fought for two and half hours for his 41 but it was more intent and less content as a cavalier devil may care approach didn't get him too many runs.
The catch that Henry Nicholls took while running backwards was as good as one would witness at this level.
Pant's dismissal did hamper India's chances but before that an inspirational piece of captaincy from Williamson left an indelible mark.
He got Wagner to come round the wicket to Jadeja and the left-arm "pounder" went wide enough to nearly cut the side crease and angled one for Jadeja to nick it behind the stumps.
Pant's approach of dealing with the New Zealand attack was better than just being in the shell, something that did more harm than good for Cheteshwar Pujara (15 off 80 balls).
Before Pujara, the extra bounce outside the off-stump had the Indian skipper falling for it and BJ Watling got the easiest of catches in his final game for the Black Caps.
Pujara's abilities of grinding out bowlers have reached mythical proportions and once again he wasn't looking to score.
The pressure built and Jamieson fired one in with the angle. Pujara wanted to remove his bat but it seemed the ball tailed him and Taylor got a regulation catch.
Ajinkya Rahane (15 off 40 balls) also didn't last long and as it has happened with India often, their tail didn't wag save for Mohammed Shami (13), who slashed three fours before Williamson cleverly deployed a "fly third-man" (neither short third-man nor the traditional third man) for the shot, which promptly landed in the fielder's palms.
It was a day when everything went haywire for India and poor captaincy made matters worse. PTI
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