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India reach WTC final following Sri Lanka’s loss


India will face Australia for the World Test Championship 2021-23 title on June 7 at The Oval in London, following New Zealand’s stunning victory against Sri Lanka on Sunday in Christchurch. India are now back-to-back WTC finalists, having reached the championship match in the previous cycle but losing to New Zealand.

By the time India played their final Test of the cycle against Australia in Ahmedabad, they were in a two-horse battle with Sri Lanka for the one remaining slot in the World Cup. Sri Lanka needed to win both of their Tests in New Zealand in addition to India losing or drawing in Ahmedabad for them to qualify. The dream of making the final was dashed by a rain-affected Day 5 and a last-ball loss, despite India’s promising start and their own dominance in the first few days of play in Christchurch, which would have boosted their hopes.

India’s voyage in this second cycle of the WTC began with the Test series in England in August-September 2021 under the Kohli-Shastri administration, when they won both games in London and led the series 2-1 before the coronavirus epidemic forced the indefinite delay of the fifth Test. The following time they played the format, a two-match home series against New Zealand, Rahul Dravid had replaced Ravi Shastri in the position. Following a tie at Kanpur, India won the series with a victory at Mumbai.

Following was the South Africa tour. KL Rahul’s century and a solid bowling performance in the first innings gave India a 1-0 lead in Centurion, but their fortunes have since deteriorated. India’s poor batting effort allowed South Africa to tie the series in Johannesburg before a disputed third day in Cape Town saw Dean Elgar’s team seal a come-from-behind series triumph to kill Kohli’s aspirations of adding South Africa to his list of away conquests.

In March, Rohit Sharma led India against Sri Lanka for the first time as India’s permanent Test captain. Ravindra Jadeja hit 175 and took five wickets in the first innings of the opening Test, while Jasprit Bumrah and Shreyas Iyer excelled in the second. He led the side to a 2-0 series victory that was very conventional and overwhelming. In July, following the IPL, India returned to England to play the postponed fifth Test with the intention of claiming a decisive away series victory. Yet England, led by centuries from Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, were able to pull off a monumental fourth-inning chase.

India ended the year 2022 with a 2-0 victory against Bangladesh. India’s 188-run triumph was led by Shubman Gill’s maiden Test century and Kuldeep Yadav’s eight wickets over the two innings. Mehidy Hasan, who led the series in wickets taken, nearly led Bangladesh to series parity in the second match, but they came agonizingly short. India required only 145 runs to win, but they were reduced to 74 for 7. Shreyas Iyer and R Ashwin then dashed Bangladesh’s hopes for a late theft to seal the series victory.

India began 2023 with the intention of reaching the WTC final. With victories over Australia in Nagpur and Delhi, where the tourists crumbled against spin, they made significant strides in the direction of their objective. In the absence of Pat Cummins, though, Steve Smith’s Australia fought back in Indore, and India paid the price for their batting incompetence.

Australia scored a large first innings total, keeping Sri Lanka in the hunt, as the hosts began the fourth Test on uncertain footing. However, this lasted until nearly half of the last day in Christchurch was lost to rain before New Zealand chased their target with the last ball, paving the way for India’s qualification.

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