After their series win against England, New Zealand will enter the World Test Championship (WTC) finals as the world's number 1 ranked Test side. Not only has the side acclimatized to the English conditions, they also have the confidence to take on India in the WTC finals after their second-string side handed the hosts a solid thrashing.
This is very similar to what India did in Australia with a side that had several new faces and hence, when the sides clash in Southampton for the WTC final, it will be a battle of wits between two remarkable squads.
"They've got a fantastic set of bowlers, [and] a lot of quality batsmen that have scored runs in different conditions all round the world. They were over here a few years ago and played really well, so we know we'll have to play well to beat them," stand-in captain Tom Latham said after the win.
Here in this article, we take a look at the key player battles which might define the course of the WTC final.
Trent Boult vs Rohit Sharma - Setting the tone for WTC final
Rohit Sharma has made a great start to his Test career as an opener and this WTC final will be his biggest test. He will be up against Trent Boult, the premier New Zealand pacer and this opening exchange could very well drop the hammer on how the WTC final will pan out.
Over the years, Rohit has struggled against the left-armer swinging the ball back in, but he has rectified his technique by opening up his stance and allowing the ball to come to him instead of reaching out. Rohit would have also played Boult several times in the Mumbai Indians nets sessions, but the stakes will be entirely different when Boult runs in with Dukes ball in the final.
Kyle Jamieson vs Virat Kohli - The battle within the WTC battle
According to reports, Virat Kohli had asked Kyle Jamieson to bowl at him with the red ball in the Royal Challengers Bangalore nets, but the tall Kiwi bowler refrained from doing it. They might be teammates in the IPL, but this exchange has set the tone for their battle in whites.
Jamieson has been superb leading into the WTC final and he gave a great glimpse of his ability in the first Test against England. He also tore apart the Indian batting order when they visited New Zealand in 2020.
Kohli has not been at his prolific best for a while now, and this is the captain's biggest test when India take on New Zealand in the WTC final at Southampton.
Jasprit Bumrah vs Kane Williamson: The best collide in the WTC final
Kane Williamson missed the second Test against England owing to an injury, but he is likely to be fit for the WTC final. Much like Kohli, Williamson will be keen to bag his maiden ICC title after New Zealand ended as runners-up in the 2015 and 2019 ODI World Cups.
However, Williamson will be up against Jasprit Bumrah and this will be a battle that might define where the WTC final eventually meanders to. Bumrah was excellent in England in the previous series and he does enjoy the Dukes ball. Skipper Kohli will hope Bumrah delivers the goods and scalps the prized wicket of Williamson.