Following New Zealand's thrilling win over Sri Lanka in Christchurch on Sunday, India have secured their spot in the World Test Championship 2021-23 final, where they will take on Australia for the title at The Oval in London from June 7. With this, India have become back-to-back finalists in WTC, having made it to the summit clash of the previous cycle where they lost to New Zealand.
By the time India went into their final Test of the cycle - against Australia in Ahmedabad - it was a two-horse race between them and Sri Lanka for the one vacant spot for the big game. The qualification scenario was a touch complex for Sri Lanka, as they didn't just need to win both their Tests in New Zealand but also for India to either lose or draw in Ahmedabad. Though their hopes would've piqued with the sort of start India made and their own domination in the first couple of days in Christchurch, the dream of making the final was shattered on a rain-hit Day 5, and a last-ball loss.
India's journey in this second cycle of the WTC began with the Test series in England in August-September 2021 under the Kohli-Shastri regime, where they won both their games in London and took a 2-1 series lead before the coronavirus pandemic led to an indefinite postponement of the fifth Test. The next time they played the format - a two-match home series against New Zealand - Rahul Dravid had graduated up to take the spot left vacant by Ravi Shastri. India won that series with a victory in Mumbai following a draw in Kanpur.
Next came the tour of South Africa. A first-innings century from KL Rahul and a strong bowling performance set India on their way with a 1-0 lead in Centurion, but their fortunes dwindled since. India's ordinary batting performance allowed South Africa to level the series in Johannesburg before a controversial third day in Cape Town saw Dean Elgar's side complete a come-from-behind series victory to dash Kohli's hopes of adding South Africa to his list of away conquests.
India's home series against Sri Lanka in March was Rohit Sharma's first as the permanent Test captain. He led the team to a fairly routine and emphatic series win by a 2-0 margin that saw Ravindra Jadeja scored 175 and take a fifer in the first innings of the opening Test while Jasprit Bumrah and Shreyas Iyer impressed in the second. In July, after the IPL, India went back to England to play the postponed fifth Test with an eye on a big away series win. But that was not to be as England pulled off a massive fourth innings chase with centuries for Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow.
India brought down the curtains on 2022 with a 2-0 victory in Bangladesh. Shubman Gill scored his maiden Test hundred and Kuldeep Yadav picked eight wickets across the two innings in India's 188-run victory. Mehidy Hasan, who topped the wickets chart for the series, threatened to gain series parity for Bangladesh in the second fixture but they fell agonisingly short. India needed just 145 to win but were reduced to 74 for 7. Shreyas Iyer and R Ashwin then quashed Bangladesh's hopes of a late heist to complete the series sweep.
India began 2023 with sights firmly set on making it to the WTC final. They took big steps towards that endeavour with wins over Australia in Nagpur and Delhi where the visitors crumbled against spin. But Steve Smith's Australia - in the absence of Pat Cummins - hit back in Indore as India paid the price for their batting ineptitude.
The hosts also began the fourth Test on shaky grounds as Australia amassed a big first innings score, keeping Sri Lanka in the hunt. But that was only until rain took away nearly half of the final day in Christchurch before New Zealand chased down their target on the final ball, paving the way for India's qualification.