SOUTHAMPTON: The inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final suffered a setback at the outset after persistent rain meant there was no play at all between India and New Zealand on Friday’s opening day at Southampton.

The toss should have taken place at 10:00 am local time (0900 GMT), with the match getting under way 30 minutes later, but heavy overnight and early morning rain meant the pitch and square at the Ageas Bowl remained fully covered.

Several more downpours hit the ground and it was no surprise when the umpires Michael Gough and Richard Illingworth abandoned play for the day at 2:48 pm (1348 GMT).

While a standard Test lasts a maximum of five days, this fixture can be extended into a sixth day should match referee Chris Broad decide that it is the only way to make-up time lost in the game to bad weather.

But former England batsman Broad won’t be called on to make such a decision until the fifth day as the match could be over before then in any event.

This fixture, worth $1.6 million to the winners and $800,000 to the runners-up, represents the culmination of a two-year programme of series to crown a champion team in men’s Test cricket, with India and New Zealand topping the qualifying table.

India captain Virat Kohli, however, questioned whether a one-off game could decide the world’s best Test side by saying Thursday: “If you’re talking about Test cricket and deciding who is the best team in the world on one game over a period of five days, that is not the reality of the truth.”

The star batsman added: “For me, this is another Test match that has to be played.”

India named their team on Thursday, with the pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami as well as spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja all included in the same Test XI for the first time.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, recovered from an elbow injury that saw him miss the Black Caps’ series-clinching win over England at Edgbaston last week, said he would delay announcing his side until the toss.

India too could yet change their side, as teams don’t have to be confirmed until the toss takes place.

Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2021

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