R. Ashwin could be India’s secret weapon for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton starting June 18.

The off-spinner has an outstanding record against left-handed batters, and the Kiwis have three in their top five — Tom Latham, Devon Conway and Henry Nicholls. Further down the order, there is Mitchell Santner and Neil Wagner.

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Out of Ashwin’s 409 Test wickets, 207 of them have been left-handers. He has also been India’s best bowler in the WTC with 67 wickets in 13 Tests. Pat Cummins (70 wickets in 14 Tests) is on the top followed by Stuart Broad (69 in 17 Tests). Ashwin is third in the list followed by Nathan Lyon (56 wickets in 14 Tests) and Tim Southee (51 wickets in 10 Tests) - the only New Zealander in the mix.

Lyon and Ashwin are the only two spinners in the top five bowling chart.

Ashwin has played only one Test at the home of Hampshire that India lost to England by 60 runs. But he had dismissed Moeen Ali, Sam Curran and Ben Stokes —all left-handers — returning 2/40 and 1/84 in two innings. Plus, he understands the English conditions having played county for Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire.

Not to forget Ashwin's prowess as a Test batsman, specially after he batted out 256 deliveries with Hanuma Vihari to save the Sydney Test in the tour Down Under.

Against New Zealand, the off-spinner has 48 wickets in six Tests; five in India and one in Wellington where he returned 3/99.

India pacer Mohammed Shami has been successful in Southampton with seven wickets in two Tests.


Test specialist batsman Ajinkya Rahane has been part of two games in Southampton against England.


The Rahane factor

Test specialist batsman Ajinkya Rahane has been part of two games in Southampton against England. In four innings, he hit three fifties — 54 and 52 not out in 2014, a fighting 51 in 2018.

Despite poor form in recent times, Rahane has been India’s best batsman in the WTC with 1,095 runs in 17 Tests. In the batting list, dominated by Marnus Labuschagne (1,675 runs in 13 Tests), Joe Root (1,660 in 20 Tests), Steve Smith (1,341 in 13 Tests) and Ben Stokes (1,334 in 17 Tests), Rahane is fifth.

Rohit Sharma, who was promoted as Test opener during the home series against South Africa in 2019, is sixth in the list with 1,030 runs. He smashed four hundreds and also recorded the career-best score of 212.

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Following Virat Kohli’s departure after the Adelaide Test, Rahane led India to a series win in Australia in 2020-21. The hundred in Melbourne was the highlight of the tour.

Against the Kiwis, the right-hander has 600 runs in seven Tests — four in New Zealand, including a hundred in Wellington — at an average of 50.

Rahane understands the diameter and circumference of the ground better than most Indian batters for his county experience with Hampshire. He has spent enough time at the premises and also has a county hundred to boost his confidence.

With 877 runs in 14 Tests, including two hundreds and five fifties, Kohli is 11th behind Pakistan's Babar Azam — 932 runs in 10 Tests with four hundreds and five fifties.