The BLACKCAPS after winning the ICC World Test Championship Final. Credit: Matthew Impey, Photosport

On Top of the World

Two years of toil culminated with the BLACKCAPS claiming victory in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship Final against India in Southampton.

It was a crowning moment for the BLACKCAPS who had earlier in the year become the number one ranked Test side in the world after winning all four home Tests against West Indies and Pakistan respectively, to book their spot in the Final.

[.richtext-box]A rain-affected match and a skilful Indian side would take the BLACKCAPS to the final session of the sixth day to claim the Test world title-a feat hailed as one of the greatest days in New Zealand sporting history.[.richtext-box]

It was a quintessential BLACKCAPS ‘team performance’ with every player chipping in at some stage over the six days. Kyle Jamieson was named Player of the Final for his match figures of 7-61, which included the dismissal of Indian captain Virat Kohli in each innings.

The experienced trio of Tim Southee (five), Trent Boult (five) and Neil Wagner (three) accounted for the remaining 13 wickets, aided by some typically first-class catching led by the retiring BJ Watling, who claimed five important catches-including one with a broken finger on the final day.

Devon Conway and Tom Latham’s opening stands of 70 and 33, along with Kane Williamson’s (49 and 52*) proved crucial in a low scoring match, as did some runs from the tail.

It was fitting that an unbroken 96-run partnership between veteran Ross Taylor (47*) and captain Williamson sealed the historic victory in the final session as the sun began to set in Southampton.

Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson after winning the ICC World Test Championship Final. Credit: Matthew Impey, Photosport

The iconic image of the legendary pair walking off arm-in-arm, two years on from the heartbreak of the One Day World Cup in the same country, was a moment to savour for all New Zealand cricket fans old and new, at home and abroad.

The inaugural World Test Championship campaign arrived after several decades of discussion. The concept was first officially mooted by West Indian great Clive Lloyd in 1996 and was championed by the late New Zealand captain Martin Crowe when the MCC and the ICC re-visited the idea in 2009.

In a world in which bilateral cricket was being played across three formats in ever-increasing volumes, it was decided a formal World Test Championship programme, played over a two-year cycle, would afford a relevance to the game that was sorely needed.

[.richtext-box]A total of 22 players represented the New Zealand team over the two-year WTC period, with the team claiming three series wins, one series draw and one series loss to qualify for the Final.[.richtext-box]

Unused signed match ball from the ICC WTC Final, 2021. Credit: David Read. New Zealand Cricket Museum Collection

Following the victory and a subsequent stint in Managed Isolation & Quarantine, the New Zealand-based players took the coveted Mace trophy on a nationwide tour of the country to celebrate with the entire cricket family.

Starting at sunrise on Tim Southee’s farm in Northland and finishing at dusk in the deep south of Jacob Duffy country-the Mace enjoyed a whirlwind, week-longroad-trip with thousands of fans able to get up close and personal with the trophy and their local BLACKCAPS.

The successful WTC campaign is perhaps best encapsulated by the Maori proverb: Eharataku toaite toa takitahi, engari taku toaite toa takitini - the success is not of one person, but of the collective.

From the 11 players on the park in Southampton, to their 11 teammates who featured over the two-year tournament, their coaches and support staff, the NZC network and associations, right through to the BLACKCAPS fans in Aotearoa and around the world–this was indeed a great team effort.

World Test Championship Mace 2021. Credit: David Read. New Zealand Cricket Museum Collection

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