Witnessing the impressive success of Cricket World Cup in shorter formats eventually inspired the International Cricket Council (ICC) to venture into the game’s longest version world cup, i.e. the World Test Championship (WTC). It will continue for two years from 2019 to 2021. At present, four teams have already played three test matches in this series. Likewise, India is also ready to start its campaign against the West Indies in Antigua from August 22. Itineraries and other formalities have already been finalized.
Old cricket foes England and Australia kickstart WTC
The two traditional rivals on the cricket field – Australia and England, kicked off the famed Ashes series from August 1, 2019, at Edgbaston, which was played under the banner of World Test Championship. England was right on top in the beginning and ripped through the Aussies batting line up. It seemed English bowlers were unplayable. But the man who stood like the rock of Gibraltar between ‘Three Lions’ dominance at Edgbaston was none other than the seasoned campaigner and former Aussie skipper Steve Smith.
Smith shines in Aussie victory
Smith returned to Test Cricket after serving a one-year ban. At one stage, Kangaroos were down to the barrel and struggling at 122 for 8. Then the trouble-shooter of the team took the responsibility of the entire team on his shoulders and played a gem of an innings. He not only scored 142 runs but also rather steadied the Oz ship. His knock was hailed as one of the greatest in the history of Ashes by cricket pundits. In the end, Australia managed to score a reasonable total of 284 runs in the first innings.
Although the Englishmen scored 374 runs to take a modest 90 runs lead, in the Aussies second innings Smith once again emerged as a messiah for his side and a thorn in the side of the opposite team. He and Matthew Wade both hit a ton and amassed a target of 378 for Joe Root and his men. But the Englishmen surrendered meekly without any blaze. The Aussies sealed the first Ashes as well as the WTC Test match by 251 runs. Steve Smith was the only choice for the man of the match award.
Second match of the Ashes series as well as WTC ended in a draw. This Test had seen some blood thirsty bowling from Jofra Archer. The gripping and gruesome battle between young Archer and cool like cucumber Smith dominated the fourth day. While smith was batting on 80, one of debutant Archer’s delivery hit on the neck of Smith and floored him to the ground. The lion-hearted Smith came to bat again after some time, despite a concussion, and added 12 more runs. Though he got dismissed on 92, his innings really showed the concentration, dedication and character of this batsman. England tried hard to level the series but the Aussie batsmen kept their nerve till the end and managed to draw the Lord’s test.
First substitute in Test cricket
All-rounder Marnus Labuschagne of Australia has got the distinction of becoming the first player in Test cricket who come in as a replacement. He was a substitution for Smith’s concussion. The replacement rule was recently introduced by the ICC, and came into effect from August 1, 2019.
Sri Lanka clips Kiwis’ wings
Moving on to Asia, here host Sri Lanka locked horns with the belated New Zealand in the Galle test. This bilateral series also forms part of World Test Championship. The Islanders, in spite of some hiccups, secured a 6-wicket victory against the Black Caps. Sri Lanka was initially staggering in most part of the Test match. In fact, a target of 268 set by the Kiwis for the hosts was not a cup of tea for anyone on a spinning track.
Skipper Dimuth Karunaratne led from the front, playing a captain’s knock and coping with the strong New Zealand attack with authority. He scored a match winning 122 runs, and was well supported by his fellow opener Thrimanne, who scored 64 runs. Both the openers laid the foundation and set the tone to chase down 268 runs and go one up in the two match series, collecting 60 points in World Test Championships with this victory.
India takes on West Indies
India is ready to rub shoulders with the host West Indies in Antigua from August 22. Watching the current form and strength of the team, it is expected that Team India will seal the first Test as well as get full 60 points. Kohli and his brigade is ready to face any Caribbean challenges. However, one can never discard the uncertainty of the game.
The World Test Championship 2019-21 is finally underway. Interest among the fans is gradually gearing up, as it is another cricketing feast for the followers of the game. Granted that its procedure is long yet keep watching what emerges in the coming months and years. Surely, one thing is clear – only a well-balanced team will emerge the WTC champion in 2021 in England.