The Ageas Bowl in Southampton will host the inaugural World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand from June 18-22. In the lead-up to the final, New Zealand will be locked in a Test match against England in Birmingham. This will definitely make New Zealand battle-ready before the final. At the same time, this will give the Kiwis a fair chance of ascending to the top of the ICC Test Match Team Rankings -- of course, if they win the Test against England. Let's analyse New Zealand's chances of being the world's top Test team
New Zealand can climb to the top spot of the ICC Test Match Team Rankings only if they beat England in the second Test of the ongoing series. The first Test at the Lord's ended in a draw, where opener Devon Conway scored a double century and experienced pacer Tim Southee bagged six wickets in the first innings.
One bad news is that New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson has been ruled out of the second Test due to an elbow injury. Tom Latham will instead lead the Blackcaps in the series-deciding match against England. Will Young is likely to replace Kane Williamson in the playing XI.
However, the New Zealand team management hopes that Kane Williamson will be ready for the World Test Championship final. This is essential as Kane Williamson has the potential to make a difference in the crucial championship match against India.
With the exception of Kane Williamson, New Zealand have some outstanding cricketers who may cause problems for England. In addition to veteran Ross Taylor and Tim Southee, the team also has some great players like Tom Latham, Henry Nichols, Trent Bolt and Neil Wagner. New Zealand will have to put in a lot of effort to win the match against a highly competitive English team.
On the other hand, India now lead the ICC Test team standings with 121 points. New Zealand are in the second place with only one point separating between the first and second positions. Winning the second match against England will increase New Zealand's ratings by four points, putting them in the first place in the ICC Test Match Team Rankings with 124 points.
India, in such a scenario, will drop to the second position. Australia is likely to move up to the third place.
Among the other teams, Pakistan are ranked fifth in the ICC Test Match Team Rankings, followed by the West Indies and South Africa. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe are ranked eighth, ninth, and tenth, respectively.
Among the players, Kane Williamson leads the ICC Test Rankings for batsmen. Australian pacer Pat Cummins leads the rankings for bowlers and West Indian player Jason Holder is the best Test all-rounder in the world, according to the latest ICC player rankings for the longer format of the game.
New Zealand would definitely want to win the series against England before facing India in the World Test Championship final. Defeating the host England will no doubt boost the confidence of the Kiwis.
Further, if New Zealand can play as the ICC's number one team, they will be psychologically ahead in the match against India. However, we can expect a fascinating clash because the top two teams are competing in the final, and hopefully, the best team will win the inaugural edition of the tournament.