Spin duo Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been named in India's side for the ICC World Test Championship final against New Zealand at the Ageas Bowl.

The Black Caps did not face a frontline spinner in a 1-0 Test series victory over England, but they will have to contend with two in Southampton.

Ashwin and Jadeja were named in a five-match bowling attack along with Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah on the eve of an inaugural final that is due to start on Friday, but poor weather could result in an opening-day washout.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling are expected to be fit to return after missing the decisive second Test win over England at Edgbaston.

Watling will be playing in the final match of his professional career if he gets the nod to replace Tom Blundell.

Wednesday has been set aside as a reserve day in case a full five days cannot be completed and that may be required with rain and storms forecast.

New Zealand are top of the rankings and come into the game on a high after securing their first Test series win in England since 1999, hammering Joe Root's side by eight wickets early on day four.

They demonstrated their strength in depth by making six changes, with Matt Henry claiming the man of the match award after he was among the players to come into the side.

Skipper Williamson, who has been troubled by an elbow injury, is delighted with the strides his side have made and says there is more to come.

"There's been a lot of growth over a period of time so many challenges along the way every day but the team has bought into it and tried to move past those with a good attitude," the prolific batsman said.

"There is lot of hard work done over a long period of time to find ourselves here in the first final.

"It's exciting but for us it's just focusing on continuing that growth and trying to keep committing to the parts of our game that give us the best chance and that's where I know the guys will be focusing on. We are trying to look at the long game and try and improve all the time."

 

INDIA IN A QUEST FOR EXCELLENCE - KOHLI

Captain Virat Kohli says India will remain in a quest for excellence regardless of the outcome in the final.

He said: "For us as a team we have been on a quest for excellence for a while now. And we are going to continue to be on that path regardless of what happens in this game. We have no doubts whatsoever in our abilities and what we can do as a side.

"As an individual player, look, we won the 2011 World Cup which was a great moment for all of us. But cricket goes on. Just the way life goes on. And you have to treat failure and success the same way, and you have to treat the so-called outstandingly big moments pretty similar to the other moments as well.

"So, yes, it is an occasion that has to be enjoyed from our point of view, but it is not different for us or no more important for us than the first Test match that we played together as a young group of players back in the day when we were trying to come up the ranks. So, yes, the mindset remains the same."
 

BLACK CAPS SPOILT FOR CHOICE

New Zealand's bowlers tore through England in the second innings at Edgbaston, skittling them out for only 122 in another demonstration that the selectors are spoilt for choice.

Henry, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and India-born spinner Ajaz Patel did the damage as Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson were among the players given a chance to put their feet up.

Pacemen Southee and Jamieson starred when New Zealand whitewashed India 2-0 last year.

Southee was named man of the match with match figures of 9-110 in the first Test at Basin Reserve and Jamieson picked up the award in the second match, taking 5-45 in the first innings. 

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- The previous seven Tests matches between the two nations have seen each team pick up three wins (D1).
- India have lost each of their previous two matches at the venue against England, while this will be the Black Caps' first Test at the ground.
- Kohli's side have lost just one of their past seven Tests (W5, D1), the loss coming at home to England in February.
- No spinner has dismissed Williamson more times in Test cricket than Ashwin (five, also Pragyan Ojha). His false shot percentage of 21.9 per cent against Ashwin is his highest against any bowler he has faced a minimum of 150 balls.

Kane Williamson and BJ Watling are expected to be fit to play for New Zealand against India in the ICC World Test Championship final at the Ageas Bowl.

Captain Williamson missed the second Test of the series with England due to an elbow issue, while a back injury stopped wicketkeeper Watling from playing in that game at Edgbaston.

However, the duo have both been included in a 15-man squad for the decider with India, which begins on Friday.

There is also a place for Ajaz Patel as the specialist spinner ahead of Mitchell Santner, while Colin de Grandhomme is the all-rounder and Will Young will provide batting cover. Tom Blundell - who took over behind the stumps in Birmingham - will be Watling's understudy.

Along with Santner, Doug Bracewell, Jacob Duffy, Daryl Mitchell and Rachin Ravindra are the other players to miss out on selection.

"There's had to be some tough calls with Mitchell and Daryl victims of the fierce competition we currently have for places in the Test side," said New Zealand coach Gary Stead.

"We’ve gone with Ajaz as our specialist spinner after an impressive outing at Edgbaston and we believe he could be a factor at the Ageas Bowl.

"Colin's been an integral member of our Test set-up for many years and it was great to see him return at Lord’s after a long injury lay-off. He’s a proven performer at the top level and we back him to do a job with the bat or the ball if called upon.

"Kane and BJ have certainly benefitted from their week of rest and rehabilitation and we expect them to be fit and available for the final."

Despite the absences of Williamson and Watling, a much-changed New Zealand side won the second Test against England, in the process securing a 1-0 series victory over their hosts.

The Black Caps are on an eight-match unbeaten run in the format, while India have lost just once in their previous seven Tests. In the past seven meetings between the countries, both have won three apiece to go along with a solitary draw.
 

New Zealand squad for ICC World Test Championship final: 

Kane Williamson (capt), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Devon Conway, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Will Young

New Zealand wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling will retire after the upcoming tour of England.

Watling had been considering his options and has decided to call time on his career following two Tests against England - the first of which starts at Lord's on June 2 - and the ICC World Test Championship final versus India at the Ageas Bowl June 18-22

The 35-year-old has played in 73 Test since making his debut as an opening batsman in 2009 and will break Adam Parore's record number of appearances by a Black Caps keeper of 67 if he plays in all three matches in England.

Watling said: "It's the right time. It's been a huge honour to represent New Zealand and in particular wear the Test baggy.

"Test cricket really is the pinnacle of the game and I've loved every minute of being out there in the whites with the boys. Sitting in the changing rooms having a beer with the team after five days' toil is what I'll miss the most.

"Although I've had to make this announcement ahead of the tour to England, my focus is very much on the three Tests ahead and preparing to perform in them.

"This tour will be a challenge on a few levels and we know as a team we will need to be at the very top of our game if we want to succeed."

Watling holds the New Zealand Test dismissals record with 249 catches - excluding 10 as a fielder - and eight stumpings, more than any other current Test gloveman.

Tim Southee has enjoyed the most fruitful bowler-keeper partnership with Watling, who has been involved in 73 dismissals for the paceman. Fellow seamers Trent Boult and Neil Wagner have seen Watling pouch catches off their bowling 55 and 53 times respectively.

He has scored eight centuries in the longest format, with a career-best 205 coming against England at Bay Oval in November 2019.

Watling has also played in 28 ODIs and five Twenty20 Internationals. 

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