New Zealand defeated India by eight wickets in Southampton to become the first-ever ICC World Test Champions. The Blackcaps had missed out on an ICC title win twice in the last six years, but this time Kane Williamson's men overcame the final hurdle to seize the trophy.
The Blackcaps won their first ICC trophy in two decades, and the entire team deserves credit for their success. New Zealand dominated the Indian cricket team on the reserve day of the WTC Final.
Many fans thought the game would end in a draw and both teams would share the trophy, but Kane Williamson and co. brought their 'A' game to the table and delivered the knockout punch. Here's a look at three reasons why the Blackcaps prevailed in the inaugural WTC Final.
1. Decision to pick five pace-bowling options and no spinners
India and New Zealand read the conditions in Southampton quite differently. While the Kiwis went in with four specialist pacers and a fast-bowling all-rounder, India decided to name three fast bowlers and two spin-bowling all-rounders in the playing XI.
Trent Boult, Neil Wagner, Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee troubled the Indian batsmen a lot. Colin de Grandhomme did not take a single wicket, but he came in to bowl a few overs when the regular pacers needed some rest.
Generally, Indian batsmen attack the spinners. Had the Blackcaps included a relatively inexperienced Ajaz Patel in the playing XI, someone like Rishabh Pant would have enjoyed batting against him. However, Kane Williamson and the team management decided to go in with five pace-bowling options and the decision proved to be a masterstroke.
All four pacers, especially Kyle Jamieson, made life difficult for the Indian batters at the Ageas Bowl. Jamieson emerged as the pick of the bowlers as he bagged seven wickets in the Test.
Many cricket experts felt India missed a trick by not including another pace-bowling option in the team. A pace-bowling all-rounder like Shardul Thakur or an in-form pacer like Mohammed Siraj could have given Virat Kohli more options in the fast-bowling attack.
2. Devon Conway and Kane Williamson's excellent batting
The conditions in Southampton were tough to bat on. India had to work very hard for their 217 runs in the first innings. In reply, the Blackcaps scored 249 runs in their first innings.
Devon Conway, playing his career's 3rd Test, became the first player to score a half-century in the WTC Final. The New Zealand opener scored 54 runs off 153 deliveries. His captain Kane Williamson aggregated 49 runs in the first innings.
Williamson batted patiently in the first innings. Although he could not form big partnerships with the middle-order batters, he held one end and then scored some crucial runs with the lower-order batsmen. In the second innings, Williamson scored an unbeaten 52* to guide New Zealand to the trophy.
Conway and Williamson's superb batting as well as the lower-order's contributions played an integral role in New Zealand's success.
3. New Zealand's brilliant fielding
New Zealand's exceptional fielding was another reason why the Blackcaps managed to defeat India in the WTC Final. Tom Latham alone saved more than 30 runs with his fielding during the first innings of the game. The Kiwi batsman also took some great catches.
Besides, Henry Nicholls took a fantastic catch to dismiss the well-set Rishabh Pant in the second innings. There were quite a few occasions in the WTC Final where the New Zealand players impressed with their fielding.
These small things made a difference in the bigger picture and ultimately helped New Zealand win the ICC World Test Championship.