Opinion: History shows Blackcaps can still claim victory in World Test Championship final

OPINION: Even with another day of cricket washed out in the World Test Championship final, Blackcaps fans should still hold hope of defeating India to lift the inaugural title.

Rain over Southampton has now seen two days of this final abandoned, with the draw now the overwhelmingly favoured result by the bookies.

But believe it or not, this Blackcaps side have already won an eerily similar test match in this World Test Championship cycle and, make no mistake, Kane Williamson will be confident of doing the same again at the Ageas Bowl.

Rewind back to August 2019. The Blackcaps had fallen 1-0 down in a two-test series against Sri Lanka - their first in the newly forged championship - before rain threatened to wipe away the second and final game of the series.

Across the first three days of play in Colombo, just 152.2 overs were bowled, as Sri Lanka's monsoon season laughed in the face of the Blackcaps' chances to level the series.

With two days to play, the Blackcaps seized control of the test, before turning the screws and beating Sri Lanka by an innings late on the final day. 

Tom Latham's 154 runs, BJ Watling's 105 not out and a 77-ball 83 from Colin de Grandhomme allowed Williamson to declare before lunch on day five at 431/6, leading Sri Lanka by 187 runs. 

The Blackcaps were then able to bowl Sri Lanka out for 122, winning by an innings and 65 runs, and banking 60 valuable test championship points.

Fast forward to June 2021 and the Blackcaps can follow the same template, with the weather forecast in Southampton offering a maximum of 196 remaining overs to be bowled.

India aren't Sri Lanka and the Blackcaps must work hard to win this one.

First of all, the Blackcaps can only bat once, so they'll have to bat big.

Rain clouds gather over the World Test Championship final
Rain clouds gather over the World Test Championship final. Photo credit: Getty

With Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Watling and de Grandhomme still to come, New Zealand should be aiming to bat for about 100 of those overs. 

That's not even factoring the likes of Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner, all of whom can score more than handy runs. Even if those three don't come off, remember Trent Boult is statistically the best No.11 to have ever played the game.

If they can score at about three runs per over, that would give New Zealand a total of more than 400 and a lead of about 180 runs. If players like Taylor and de Grandhomme can bat with any sort of freedom, then a 180-run lead would be a bare minimum.

The time lost so far and the amount of rain that's fallen should have dampened the pitch out enough to really nullify India's spin twins of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, so if the Blackcaps can blunt the seam trio of Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, runs are there to be scored.

Starting with Williamson and Taylor, the Blackcaps have the ability to score a big enough total to make sure that they won't need to bat again.

Next come the finishing touches, which will rest in the hands of the five-pronged seam attack.

Kyle Jamieson celebrates a wicket against India
Kyle Jamieson celebrates a wicket against India. Photo credit: Getty

In the first innings, India got away to a decent start, with openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill posting 62 runs, before Jamieson, in particular, showed his teammates how they need to bowl.

India wobbled to 88/3, but recovered slightly through a partnership between captain Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. Once that was broken, India stumbled again from 149/3 to 217 all out - a collapse of 68/7.

If the Blackcaps can bat big enough on Tuesday, day five, then India would only realistically be playing to save the game on day six, rather than win it.

The issue there is that four of India's top six - Sharma, Gill, Kohli and Rishabh Pant - are all naturally attacking players and would have to bat against their instincts to save the test.

And while Cheteshwar Pujara and Rahane are also fine, defensive players, it would be a huge ask in those conditions to save the test and earn a draw.

What's more, they'll be up against Jamieson, who averages a comical 12.71 runs per wicket against India after the first innings and needs just six more wickets to beat Shane Bond's NZ record of 12 tests to reach 50 test scalps.

India can take heart from their series-defining draw against Australia in Sydney in January, when they batted out the entire last day and went on to win the series in Brisbane.

A draw and shared trophy would be a fair result, considering the time lost to rain, but the Blackcaps are by far the team best placed to win this one.

It won't be easy, but the Blackcaps have already proven they can defy odds and expectation to even reach this final.

Here's hoping they can do the same again to lift that awful-looking World Test Championship mace come the end of day six.

Alex Powell is a Newshub online sports producer, pulling the overnight shift during the World Test Championship final, Join us from 9pm Tuesday for live updates