The decision to factor in a reserve day at the end of the World Test Championship final is already looking prudent after persistent rain in Southampton pushed the start of the match back by 24 hours.
This was a bleak opening to what is supposed to be a historic encounter between the two top-ranked Test sides, India and New Zealand, with both sets of players confined to the on-site hotel on the opening day at the Ageas Bowl and the covers never once shifting.
A band of dhol drummers among a predominantly India-supporting crowd of about 1,000 had tried to inject some life into proceedings but it was only a matter of time before umpires Michael Gough and Richard Illingworth abandoned play, their decision finally arriving at 2.48pm.
The absence of a toss means neither side is committed to its final XI going into the second day, although India’s fielding coach, Ramakrishnan Sridhar, suggested theirs was unlikely to change from the two-spinner, three-seamer approach stated a day out from the start. “I think it’s an XI which can play and perform on any given surface and any given weather conditions,” he said.
New Zealand appear to be deciding between all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme in an all-seam attack or the slow left arm of Ajaz Patel. “We’ll have to wait and see when we get the chance to have a look at the wicket,” said opener Tom Latham, who is back in the ranks after deputising for captain Kane Williamson during the recent second Test against England.
As it stands, the remaining four days will swell to 98 overs each and the hope is that, despite further rain forecast on Monday and Tuesday, a result can be achieved in the available time. A decision on whether to trigger the reserve day on Wednesday will be made on the fifth day. A draw would see the title shared.
Latham said: “Looking at the weather that we’ve got out there at the moment, [the reserve day] is obviously a great decision. We’ve been in this situation many times before as cricketers. It’s important that we aren’t caught on the hop, that we’re ready to go when called upon.”
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India (probable): Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah New Zealand (possible): Tom Latham, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, BJ Watling (wk), Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Neil Wagner, Ajaz Patel, Trent Boult.