Pat Cummins’ troops will get a chance at revenge, with the WTC Final to be contested at The Oval. Australia shot themselves in the foot during the last WTC cycle. They missed out on the final because of their slow overrate from the 2020 Boxing Day Test. Meanwhile, India was outclassed by Kane Williamson’s Black Caps in the 2021 WTC Final. At that time, Southampton’s wet conditions replicated New Zealand’s home summer.
Both sides are seeking redemption in London. The winning team set to pocket $2.4 million in prize money, while the runner-up gets $1.2 million.
The Australian Qualification Journey
Australia’s World Test Championship cycle kicked off in dramatic circumstances. The captain and wicketkeeper Tim Paine stepped away from cricket a couple of weeks before the Ashes in December 2021. But newly appointed skipper Pat Cummins led the hosts to a thumping 4-0 series win over England.
After Justin Langer’s resignation as head coach in February 2022, Australia travelled for a historic Test tour of Pakistan. Following two frustrating draws in Rawalpindi and Karachi, Australia secured a gritty 1-0 series victory.
Australia dominated the West Indies and South Africa at home during summer. They won four consecutive Tests before the New Year’s fixture against the Proteas ended as a rain-affected draw.
The Australians were comfortably at the top of the World Test Championship standings, but still needed at least one draw from their four Tests in India to book a spot in the final. And after suffering two embarrassing defeats in Nagpur and Delhi, Australia jumped the final with a nine-wicket triumph over India on a raging turner in Indore.
The Indian Superstar Camp
The Indian dressing room has a few superstar names, match-winners and young guns ready to take down any opposition on its day. With the blend of veterans, youngsters and players returning to the Test setup after a considerable gap, this Indian team, unlike previous times, look more balanced.
Though nine of the eleven players are sure starters, the fight for the two spots has kept both camps on their feet. India is likely to start with Ishan Kishan as the keeper-batter and Umesh as the third seamer alongside Shami, Siraj and two spinners in Jadeja and Ashwin.
With Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja in good touch with the bat, chances of India dictating terms early on are high if batted first. If they bowl first, the fearsome duo of Shami and Siraj will trouble the mighty Aussies, with Umesh chipping in anytime when asked.
The Mighty Oval
For the first time in their 76-year Test history, Australia and India will face off at a neutral venue in London. Australia has won just seven of their 38 Tests at The Oval since 1880, but India’s record at the London venue isn’t much better either, with two wins in 14 matches dating back to 1936.
The Oval is regarded as one of England’s most spin-friendly decks, certainly when compared to the other Ashes venues. Spin bowlers have taken 33 Test wickets at 28.72 since the start of 2018, which could tempt India into picking both Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin.
Australian vice-captain Steve Smith has enjoyed plenty of success at The Oval. He averages 97.75 in three matches at the venue, including his maiden Test century back in 2013.
Injury Woes in Both Teams
Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma are modern greats of the sport. Cheteshwar Pujara has terrorised Australia’s bowlers for over a decade. Also, India’s batting stocks have been bolstered by the return of former vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane.
However, India will be without a trio of their biggest stars for the WTC Final. Paceman Jasprit Bumrah, wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant and batter Shreyas Iyer all recovering from long-term injuries.
Meanwhile, Australia’s line-up is fairly settled with a question mark hovering over Josh Hazlewood. His replacement is set to be Victorian seamer Scott Boland, who is averaging 13.42 with the ball after seven Tests. Boland is well accustomed to the Duke ball, having played with it in the Sheffield Shield from 2016 to 2020.
Venue – The Oval, England
Time – 3:30 PM IST, 11 AM Local Time
Date – 7th June 2023
Oppositions – India Vs Australia, WTC Final
Pitch – Expected to be Bouncy and good for Pace
India’s Predicted XI –
Rohit Sharma (captain), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane. Ravindra Jadeja, Ishan Kishan (wk), Ravi Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Siraj.
Australia’s Predicted XI –
David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green. Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (captain), Mitchell Starc, Scott Boland and Nathan Lyon.
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