New Zealand coasted to an unlikely eight-wicket win on the sixth, and reserve, day of the World Test Championship final against India here on Wednesday, after the rain-affected match ebbed and flowed over six days.
This is an apt redemption for New Zealand, who had lost the final of the last two 50-over World Cups, in 2015 and 2019. Also, this is New Zealand’s second major international trophy, following their ICC Knock Out triumph in 2000.
The match, in which two days were lost to rain, saw a strong performance from Kiwis on the reserve day as their bowlers ran through the Indian batting line-up and dismissed them for just 170 runs at the Hampshire Bowl. And then they scaled the 139-run target through a 96-run third-wicket partnership between Kane Williamson (52 not out) and Ross Taylor (47 not out).
India got a sniff of victory when off-spinner R Ashwin removed the two openers early and bowled a tight line to Taylor. However, Taylor smashed Ashwin for two boundaries in one over to break the shackles and then coasted along.
Earlier, India, who started the day at 64/2, lost three wickets — skipper Virat Kohli (13), Cheteshwar Pujara (15), and Ajinkya Rahane (15) — in the first session to go to lunch at 130/5.
Kyle Jamieson (2/30) removed Kohli and Pujara while Rahane fell to Boult (3/39).
Post lunch, India kept losing wickets as the tail failed to wag once again. Rishabh Pant, who was the innings top scorer with 41 runs, was the last hope for India but he fell to a rash shot as the seventh wicket with the score on 156.
Pace bowler Tim Southee picked four wickets for 48 runs to end as the most successful New Zealand bowler.
Indian seamers, in response, failed to make an impact on a pitch where New Zealand bowlers looked unplayable. Barring a brief spell during which Ashwin unsettled the Kiwis by removing Devon Conway (19) and Tom Latham (9), the entire bowling unit looked innocuous.
This is New Zealand’s sixth successive win over India in ICC tournaments, dating back to World T20 in 2007.
As India started the sixth day at 64 for two in their second innings, a lead of 32, all four results were still possible but the Black Caps’ pace quartet of Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner combined to take the last eight wickets for the just 106 more runs.
That gave them at least 53 overs to chase down 139 and, despite some early Ashwin-induced wobbles, their two most senior batsmen saw them over the line.
After rain had wiped out two of the first five days of this Test match, the ICC implemented the use of the reserve day to increase the chances of a result, with 98 overs due to be bowled on day six.
The 35-year-old Watling – playing his final Test match of a distinguished international career – dislocated his right ring finger during the morning session but gamely battled on behind the stumps and took his third catch of the innings to remove Ravindra Jadeja after lunch and reduce India to 142 for six.
The unorthodox Pant had shown his class when whipping Jamieson through mid-on for four before charging down the pitch to Wagner and punching the ball through mid-off for another boundary, so him finally being dismissed for 41 felt like a huge moment for New Zealand.
Pant danced down the track once again, aiming to hit Boult over long-on but instead got under the ball and Henry Nicholls took a good catch over his shoulder with India still only on 156.
The Indian tail was then quickly dispatched as Boult had Ashwin caught by Taylor two balls later and Southee ended with innings-best figures of 4/48 by dismissing Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah, both caught by Tom Latham, as India were all out for just 170.
It was the first time since 2018 that no Indian batsman reached a half-century in either innings of a Test match and a target of 139 looked within reach of New Zealand.
A circumspect start by the Black Caps allowed openers Latham and Devon Conway to see out the eight overs before tea unscathed, as they reached 19-0 at the interval.
But scoring was slow and the pressure eventually told as Latham came down the wicket, saw Ashwin’s delivery beat the bat and Pant smartly stumped him to make the score 33 for one.
India thought they had the key wicket of Williamson for just one when he was given out LBW by umpire Michael Gough, again off Ashwin, only for the decision to be overturned on review.
Ashwin did trap Conway LBW shortly after to become the leading wicket-taker in the World Test Championship and reduce the Black Caps to 44/2 but Taylor (47 not out) and Williamson (52 not out) rebuilt by keeping the scoreboard ticking and punishing the bad balls.
Taylor in particular crunched a couple of wider balls through the off-side for four and when Pujara dropped him at slip off the bowling of Bumrah, with 55 runs still needed, the writing appeared to be on the wall.
And so it proved, as the two veteran New Zealanders hit another gear to reach the target inside 46 overs, despite a Williamson skier hitting the ground with the Black Caps approaching single figures needed.
Fittingly, the New Zealand skipper reached the half-century mark, bringing up his 50 with a boundary, while Taylor flicked the winning runs through the leg-side.
Brief scores: India 217 all out in 92.1 overs and 170 all out in 73 overs (R Sharma 30, R Pant 41, T Southee 4/48, T Boult 3/39, K Jamieson 2/30); New Zealand 249 all out in 99.2 overs and 140/2 wkts in 45.5 overs (K Williamson 52 not out, R Taylor 47 not out)
Result: New Zealand won by eight wickets
Man of the Match: Kyle Jamieson