Australia and India hold a sizeable lead, but New Zealand could still push them
“I’m not in a huge rush to go back to Lord’s…”
The scars are still there. Trent Boult still feels the sting of that raucous night on July 14, 2019, when not only was he in charge of the last over of the most dramatic World Cup final, he then had to bowl the Super Over as well. And though technically he didn’t really lose, he still had to watch the other team take away the Cup.
But with another final scheduled at Lord’s in 2021 – one that will crown the first ever Test match champion in cricket history – he’s willing to step back in again and see if things don’t turn out differently.
“I’m not in a huge rush to go back to Lord’s but obviously it’ll be a special occasion,” Boult said at the end of the third day’s play in the second Test against West Indies in Wellington. “It’ll be very, very unique. Obviously [it] hasn’t been done before in a sense of having a final kind of playoff Test match. But it’s why you play the game. It’s why you put the hours in to lift those trophies in the end so I can’t think of a better bunch of guys to try and lift it with than this Test side.”
New Zealand will have to finish in the top two of the World Test Championship table to book a spot for Lord’s next year. They are currently in fourth place but are favourites to wrap up the series against West Indies 2-0, with the opposition six down and still 85 runs shy of parity while following on. The next challenge begins on Boxing Day with two Tests against Pakistan and at the start of the new year they’ll take on Bangladesh as well.
As things stand, Australia and India are a lot closer to playing in that final, thanks to the sizeable lead they have over everyone else. But, given all of New Zealand’s upcoming matches are at home and that they’ve only lost five Tests there in the last 10 years, they will fancy their chances of getting enough points to be pushing for those top-two spots.
For now, their focus remains on West Indies, whose lower order mounted serious resistance once more and, with a little help from bad light, pushed the Wellington Test into the fourth day.
“We would’ve loved to keep going,” Boult said. “But [we] can’t really control that. I think we were in a great position and it’s all set up nicely tonight. It’ll be nice obviously to look forward to get a nice hard new ball in our hands. Some good resiliency from Jason Holder; obviously good little partnership. It’s going to be a big one to break in the morning. Hopefully we can scratch out a couple before the new ball and set it up nicely. Probably don’t need to go [looking for wickets] too much. Keep it nice and simple as we have throughout the innings and draw the error and I’m pretty confident we can do it.”
New Zealand have enjoyed some excellent individual performances over the past few days. Tim Southee picked up his 11th five-for and is moving ever closer to 300 Test wickets. And Boult is hot on his heels with both of them are eyeing Sir Richard Hadlee at New Zealand’s summit.
“There’s a race to 431 that would be quite nice,” Boult said. “I really enjoy bowling with him [Southee]. We’ve been good mates for a number of years now. We complement [each other] very nicely at times in our career. He’s in some hot form. He’s been bowling really well with the red ball and he’s very close. It’s exciting”
BJ Watling has been a silent partner helping Southee and Boult achieve those heights, and in the process he too has won a major accolade. With 242 dismissals, he went past England’s Alex Stewart and is now among the 10 most successful Test wicketkeepers of all time.
“The Sherriff [Watling], he’s been doing what he does for a long time,” Boult said. “He’s a very passionate man. He’s very passionate about the hat on his head and the team he’s surrounded by. Deserves all the accolades that come his way. He’s one of the guys that works extremely hard on his game and it’s understandable why he’s moving further and further up those lists.”
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo