The World Test Championship 2021-23 final will take place at The Oval in London from June 7 to 11 after New Zealand beat Sri Lanka in Christchurch on Sunday. With this, India have become back-to-back finalists in WTC, having made it to the summit clash of the previous cycle where they lost to New Zealand.
As India geared up for their final Test in Ahmedabad, the qualification picture was complex. Sri Lanka needed to win both their matches in New Zealand and have India either lose or draw in order to make the finals. Their prospects were looking hopeful as India had a shaky start and Sri Lanka dominated the first couple of days in Christchurch; however, a rainy Day 5 resulted in a last-ball loss and dashed their hopes of making it to the big game.
India’s journey in the second cycle of the WTC commenced in August-September 2021 when they visited England under the Kohli-Shastri pairing. They claimed victory in both their matches in London, securing a 2-1 lead before their next game was put off indefinitely due to COVID-19. Their following Test series saw Rahul Dravid taking over from Ravi Shastri into a two-match home series against New Zealand. India emerged victorious by taking the win at Mumbai after the Kanpur tie had been held as a draw.
As a result of a first-innings century by KL Rahul and a strong bowling performance, India took a 1-0 lead in Centurion before losing the series. A controversial third day in Cape Town saw Dean Elgar’s side complete a come-from-behind series victory to dash Kohli’s hopes of adding South Africa to his list of away conquests after Indians’ ordinary batting performance allowed South Africa to equalize the series in Johannesburg.
In March, Rohit Sharma made his debut as India’s permanent Test captain and guided the team to an impressive series triumph with a 2-0 margin. Ravindra Jadeja’s superb 175 in the first innings of the opener was a highlight, while Jasprit Bumrah and Shreyas Iyer also put in noteworthy performances. When the IPL ended in July, India travelled back to England for the fifth Test that had been previously postponed; unfortunately though, their hopes of securing an away series victory were dashed as Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow both scored centuries during England’s successful fourth innings run chase.
India finished 2022 with a two-nil triumph in Bangladesh. Shubman Gill celebrated his first Test ton, while Kuldeep Yadav took eight scalps in the 188-run victory. Despite Mehidy Hasan topping the series wickets chart, Bangladesh’s comeback fell just short. India needed only 145 to seal the win, but got off to an alarming start at 74 for 7. Nonetheless, Shreyas Iyer and R Ashwin ensured India weren’t denied as they swept the series.
As India started 2023 with a clear intent to reach the world final, they blew it out of the water with wins over Australia in Nagpur and Delhi, where the visitors crumbled against spin. As India paid for their batting ineptitude in Indore, Steve Smith’s Australia hit back in the absence of Pat Cummins.
In the fourth Test, the hosts also began on shaky ground as Australia scored well in the first innings, keeping Sri Lanka in contention. It was only until rain interrupted nearly half the final day in Christchurch that New Zealand chased down their target, paving the way for India’s qualification.