Australia will play India again in cricket's World Test Championship final in June after New Zealand ended Sri Lanka's hopes in a dramatic final-ball thriller on Monday. Heading into the final day's play of the fourth Test between Australia and India, and the first Test between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, only the Aussies had secured their place in the WTC final.
Sri Lanka could unseat India if they managed to sweep New Zealand 2-0 in their series, so long as India didn't win the fourth Test against Australia. But New Zealand ruined Sri Lanka's plans and sealed India'a place in the final with a dramatic two-wicket win on Monday.
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The Kiwis chased down a target of 285 runs on the final ball of the rain-shortened final day in Christchurch, with Kane Williamson proving the hero. The former captain notched his 27th Test century, making 121 not out after the first four-and-a-half hours of play at Hagley Oval had been washed out by rain.
New Zealand needed one run off the final delivery of the match to seal victory, with Williamson on strike and an injured Neil Wagner at the non-striker's end. With a badly damaged hamstring that has ruled him out of the second Test, Wagner managed to scamper through for a bye after Williamson played and missed at a bouncer.
Wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella missed in his attempt to run out Wagner, before the ball went to bowler Asitha Fernando, who turned and fired at the stumps at the non-striker's end. Fernando's throw cannoned into the stumps, but replays showed Williamson had made his ground by a matter of inches.
"As along as we had someone like Kane at the crease, the guys were very trusting in what he was going to do," New Zealand captain Tim Southee said after the match. "He's just a world-class player and I think world-class players are able to perform in different conditions and different situations. Seeing him so calm in the middle kept us all calm on the sidelines."
New Zealand's win means Australia will play India in the WTC final at The Oval starting on June 7. The match will start just nine days before the commencement of the Ashes, giving the Aussies the perfect tune-up in England conditions ahead of their attempt to retain the urn.
Nothing beats test match . What a game 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻
— Mkay Saitama (@mannythehitman) March 13, 2023
A few weeks after winning a Test by one run, New Zealand have just won another one by 3cm. Incredible. #NZvSL
— Scott Bailey (@ScottBaileyAAP) March 13, 2023
— Wasim Jaffer (@WasimJaffer14) March 13, 2023
Neil Wagner, who turned 37 today, and has a torn hamstring, with the best 0* (0) you will ever see. #NZvSL
— Lachlan McKirdy (@LMcKirdy7) March 13, 2023
— Chetan Narula (@chetannarula) March 13, 2023
— ADITYA TIWARI (@Iamnot_aditya) March 13, 2023
I can't believe we're playing test cricket at 7.30pm In middle of March in Christchurch yet here we are #NZvSL
— Stephen Gallagher (@SWTGallagher) March 13, 2023
Australia and India settle for draw in fourth Test
Later on Monday, the fourth Test between Australia and India petered out into a dull draw, giving the hosts a 2-1 series win. India won their fourth series in a row against Australia after an epic knock of 186 by Virat Kohli on day four meant the possibility of a result was ruined.
Australia reached 2-175 in their second innings in the final session of play when captains Steve Smith and Rohit Sharma called it a day. Travis Head made 90 in another brilliant innings, while Marnus Labuschagne finished 63 not out and Smith was unbeaten on 10.
"We do understand the importance of this series and the opposition. Lot of hard work has gone into this," India skipper Sharma said.
“It was a fantastic series from the word go. We knew how important it was to start the series (on a winning note). I am also proud of the win in the Delhi Test. Different players put their hands up at different times.”
India coach Rahul Dravid told broadcaster Star Sports: "It was a really hard-fought series. There were moments where we were put under extreme pressure by a really good cricket team and we responded."
Smith was left to ponder what might have been if the pitch hadn't been so difficult for the bowlers in Ahmedabad. “The wicket here was too flat for us to force a result," he said. “The spinners have bowled really well throughout.”
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