Spain reached the semi-finals of the men's football tournament at the Tokyo Olympics after surviving an almighty scare against the Ivory Coast.

Manchester United defender Eric Bailly was a surprising opening goalscorer but Dani Olmo levelled before half-time at Miyagi Stadium.

Spain were the dominant force on the ball without finding a breakthrough, and it looked as though they were staring at a shock quarter-final exit when Max Gradel's deflected effort gave Ivory Coast the lead in injury time.

Incredibly, substitute Rafa Mir forced extra time two minutes later, scoring just 58 seconds after coming off the bench.

Spain at last went ahead when Oyarzabal swept home from the penalty spot, Bailly having been penalised for handball after a long VAR review.

Mir completed his hat-trick with two goals in the final three minutes to secure a 5-2 win and send Spain into the final four.

JAPAN STILL DREAMING

Spain will now meet Japan after the hosts battled past New Zealand in Kashima.

There was little to split the sides over 120 minutes, Japan out-shooting their opponents 21 to eight but unable to find a breakthrough.

At the other end, captain Maya Yoshida was the inspiration, posting the highest figures for duel success rate (80 per cent), aerial success rate (71.4 per cent) and blocks (three) of any starting player.

Fittingly, it was Yoshida who converted the final penalty after Liberato Cacace and Clayton Lewis had failed to score, giving Japan a 4-2 win in the shoot-out.

 

MEXICO WIN CLASSIC TO SET UP BRAZIL CLASH

Brazil's quest to defend the gold medal they won on home soil in 2016 will continue in a semi-final against Mexico.

A solitary goal from Matheus Cunha settled the quarter-final contest with Egypt in Saitama.

If that encounter was cagey, the showdown between Mexico and South Korea was anything but, as a nine-goal thriller was played out in Yokohama.

Mexico led 3-1 at half-time through goals from Henry Martin, Luis Romo and Sebastian Cordova, with Lee Dong-gyeong grabbing a lifeline.

A frenetic contest continued after the break as Lee made it 3-2 only for Martin and Cordova to score their second goals and stretch Mexico's advantage.

Substitute Eduardo Aguirre netted the sixth with six minutes of normal time remaining, Hwang Ui-jo scoring an injury-time consolation.

 

Real Madrid winger Takefusa Kubo was on target again as hosts Japan eliminated France from the Tokyo Olympics men's football tournament with a 4-0 win on Wednesday.

Kubo netted in Japan's first two Group A games and gave Madrid another reminder of his quality by opening the scoring against France in Yokohama.

In doing so, the 20-year-old became the first Japanese player to score in each group-stage match at the same Olympic tournament.

Hiroki Sakai doubled Japan's lead prior to half-time before Koji Miyoshi and Daizen Maeda completed the rout, either side of Randal Kolo Muani being sent off.

Japan advance as the only side with a 100 per cent record, whereas France – who had Timothee Pembele and Andre-Pierre Gignac in their line-up – are out at the first stage.

Only Fiji (23 in 2016) and Serbia-Montenegro (14 in 2004) have let in more than the 11 goals France conceded at Tokyo 2020 in the 21st century.

"The tournament was really difficult for us, because we are young players and these are the first games we have played with the team," France midfielder Alexis Beka Beka said. 

"One of the big differences was the other teams knew each other much better. But it's all about the details. The game is never finished."

Mexico recovered from their loss to Japan last time out by beating South Africa 3-0 in a game in which both sides had a player sent off, seeing them through in second place ahead of France.

 


SPAIN MATCH CLASS OF '92

Spain were not perfect in the pool phase, having been held for the second time in three games in Wednesday's clash with Argentina, but they still went through as Group C winners.

It is the first time La Roja have achieved that feat at the Olympic Games since the likes of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique went on to win gold in Barcelona in 1992.

Spain dominated possession against Argentina and took the lead through Mikel Merino's 66th-minute strike at Saitama Stadium.

Tomas Belmonte's late equaliser came against the run of play, but it was not enough to prevent 2004 and 2008 gold medallists Argentina crashing out early on.

London 2012 quarter-finalists Egypt finished level on four points with Argentina after beating Australia 2-0 and progress to the last eight, where heavyweights Brazil await, by virtue of a superior goal difference.

HISTORIC ACHIEVEMENT FOR OLYWHITES

New Zealand picked up the point they needed against Romania in a goalless draw to advance to the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time.

Goalkeeper Michael Woud redeemed himself for his horror show in the loss to Honduras by making a string of stops against Romania, who would have advanced with a win.

"It really came down to desire tonight," said OlyWhites head coach Danny Hay. "The boys really dug deep and showed a lot of that.

"I'm really proud of the performance. It's historic and we look forward to a quarter-final for a New Zealand men's team."

New Zealand also needed a favour from South Korea, who followed up a 4-0 win against Romania with a 6-0 victory over Honduras on Wednesday en route to topping Group B.

Hwang Ui-jo scored three of the goals, two of those from the penalty spot, and a showdown with Mexico is up next for rampant South Korea for a place in the semi-finals.

RIO FINALISTS GERMANY FALL SHORT

Germany will not get the opportunity to match or better their silver medal from Rio in 2016 as a 1-1 draw with Ivory Coast saw their opponents through at their expense.

Nothing less than a win would do for Stefan Kuntz's men but they fell behind to a Benjamin Henrichs own goal with 67 minutes played.

While Eduard Lowen's impressive free-kick did set up a tense finish in Miyagi, Germany were unable to find a winner and are on the plane home.

Ivory Coast will now take on Spain, the last European nation standing, in the quarter-finals.

Also through to the knockout stage are reigning champions Brazil after seeing off Saudi Arabia 3-1, with Richarlison's late double adding to Matheus Cunha's first-half opener.

France got the better of South Africa in a seven-goal thriller as Andre-Pierre Gignac's hat-trick inspired Les Bleus to a 4-3 victory at the Tokyo Olympics.

Having been thrashed 4-1 by Mexico in their opening game of Group A, France hit back to keep their chances of progression alive, though they had to do so the hard way in Saitama.

Indeed, South Africa led on three occasions during a remarkable second half, yet it was Les Bleus who took the points.

Liberato Cacace's stunner was not enough to propel New Zealand to victory against Honduras in Group B, while reigning champions Brazil could only draw 0-0 with the Ivory Coast and Spain overcame Australia thanks to Mikel Oyarzabal's late winner.

 

GIGNAC AND SAVANIER SETTLE THRILLER

France were on the wrong end of conceding four last time out, and though they still let three in this time around, Teji Savanier's stoppage-time goal saw them clinch victory.

It was 35-year-old Gignac who had previously dragged France level on three occasions – a close-range finish followed by a thumping header before the Tigres striker, the leading scorer in the competition, converted his second penalty of the tournament to cancel out Teboho Mokoena's glorious 81st-minute strike.

Luther Singh had missed a first-half penalty for South Africa, with Kobamelo Kodisang and Evidence Makgopa also getting on the scoresheet.

But Gignac's efforts set the stage for France to nose themselves ahead when Montpellier's experienced Savanier lashed home, sending South Africa out in the process.

France sit third in Group A, three points behind leaders Japan, who survived a late scare to beat Mexico 2-1.

ALL WHITES LET LEAD SLIP

Cacace's exceptional strike put New Zealand ahead after just 10 minutes in Kashima – the defender picking out the top-right corner with a first-time effort from 30 yards out.

Luis Palma restored parity in first-half stoppage time, yet Chris Wood carried on his scoring form to put New Zealand back in front just after the restart.

Yet substitutes proved the difference for Honduras. Juan Obregon netted with 12 minutes remaining, paving the way for Rigoberto Rivas to clinch the comeback victory.

Matters were much more simple for South Korea, as they cruised to a 4-0 triumph against Romania, meaning all four Group B teams are on four points heading into the final matchday.

 

OYARZABAL RECORDS LONG-AWAITED SPAIN WIN

Spain secured their first win at an Olympic Games since 2000 thanks to Oyarzabal's header against Australia, which came with nine minutes of normal time remaining.

The 24-year-old Real Sociedad winger – who played a pivotal role in Spain's run to the semi-finals at Euro 2020 – has put La Roja top of Group C heading into Wednesday's encounter with Argentina, who beat Egypt.

Spain, who drew with Egypt in their opener, won gold in 1992 and silver in 2000, but had only qualified once since then, but they failed to score across their three appearances in the 2012 London Games.

CHAMPIONS HELD AS GERMANY BOUNCE BACK

Brazil sparkled in their 4-2 win over Germany on matchday one, though they could not find a way past the Ivory Coast, who held them to a 0-0 draw in Group D.

Douglas Luiz was sent off early on for Brazil, who missed a last-gasp chance to seal qualification through substitute Malcom after the Ivory Coast had also been reduced to 10 men.

Meanwhile, Germany recovered from their defeat on matchday one to beat Saudi Arabia 3-2 – Felix Uduokhai netting the decisive goal in the 75th minute.

The 2021 Rugby League World Cup is in jeopardy after Australia and New Zealand pulled out of the tournament due to player welfare concerns amid rising coronavirus cases.

The two heavyweight nations of the game have cited a spike in COVID-19 infections in the UK and a "worsening environment" in Australia.

England and Samoa are due to kick off the tournament at St James' Park on October 23.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and New Zealand Rugby League (NZRL) have requested that the tournament be moved to 2022, although this is a course of action organisers may be loath to take given the prospects of a clash with the 2022 Cricket World Cup in Australia and the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

"The decision to withdraw from the RLWC2021 comes after considering the risk of COVID-19 infection in the United Kingdom, the worsening environment in Australia and the time a majority of NRL Premiership players will spend away from home under strict biosecurity conditions prior to the World Cup," a joint statement read.

"The ARLC and NZRL have resolved, that in the present environment the risks to athletes and officials travelling to the UK to participate in the tournament this year are too great, and it is unable to endorse Australia and New Zealand participating in the RLWC in 2021."

The withdrawal comes despite the fact Australia's rugby union team are still slated to play England at Twickenham on November 13.

Tournament organisers issued a statement expressing frustration at the announcement.

"RLWC2021 note the disappointing statement made by the ARLC and NZRL which may have wide ranging implications for international rugby league," read the Rugby League World Cup statement. "RLWC2021 were informed at very short notice and will continue discussions with all stakeholders to agree on the best way forward."

ARLC chairman Peter V'landys said: "Not participating in this year's World Cup is not a decision the commission has taken lightly, but we must put the best interests of our players and officials first. Protecting them is our absolute priority.

"In the current environment, the risks to the safety, health and wellbeing of the players and officials travelling from Australia to participate in the tournament this year are insurmountable.

"The majority of NRL players are currently living away from home under difficult biosecurity protocols. They would then be required to remain under protocols and away from home for the duration of the tournament before again quarantining on return to Australia. This is too much to ask our players and officials to do."

NZRL CEO Greg Peters added: "The safety and wellbeing of our people is the main priority, and unfortunately, that cannot be guaranteed to our satisfaction.

"There are stark differences between how the pandemic is being managed in the UK compared to Australasia and recent developments have highlighted how quickly things can change.

"The tournament organisers have moved heaven and earth to make this work, so it is not an easy decision, but the COVID-19 situation in the UK shows no sign of improving, and it's simply too unsafe to send teams and staff over."

Australia have won 11 of the 15 editions of the Rugby League World Cup, while New Zealand's 2008 triumph means there has not been a winner from outside Australasia since Great Britain in 1972.

New Zealand scored over 50 points in three successive Tests for just the second time in their history as the All Blacks ran out 60-13 winners over Fiji.

Richie Mo'unga and Sevu Reece were the stars of the show in Hamilton, the former racking up 13 points with the boot and assisting three tries – his most in a Test and just the second time he has made multiple assists in a single match – while the latter scored a hat-trick.

The All Blacks beat Tonga 102-0 before their 57-23 win over Fiji in Dunedin last week, and Reece had them ahead again in the 14th minute despite Ben Volavola's early penalty.

Reece had won each of the three previous Tests in which he had scored a try and there never looked any risk of New Zealand letting their grasp slip once he went over for his second in the 30th minute, with the wing completing his maiden hat-trick before half-time.

Ardie Savea and Will Jordan touched down either side of the interval as New Zealand clicked through the gears, though Peni Ravai did at least get a consolation try on the board for Fiji.

Rieko Ioane soon had the hosts' sixth score and Samisoni Taukei'aho helped himself to a double either side of Shannon Frizell's effort to round off the win for the All Blacks, who have won their past four Tests.

Next up for New Zealand is the Bledisloe Cup against Australia, with Auckland's Eden Park hosting the first match of the three-Test series.

Dane Coles came off the bench to score four second-half tries as New Zealand beat Fiji 57-23 at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.

The All Blacks dished out a record-equalling 102-0 rout of Tonga last weekend, but they only led Fiji by 10 points at the break – the smallest half-time advantage they have had against a non-Tier One country in a Test on home soil.

David Havili claimed a quickfire double following an opening try from Jordie Barrett, but Albert Tuisue went over for Fiji and two Ben Volavola penalties made it 21-11 at the break.

George Bridge increased New Zealand's lead when he overlapped down the left wing to touch down, but Mesulame Kunavula touched down to reduce the deficit as Fiji put up a great battle.

Coles crossed following a lineout after Fiji full-back Kini Murimurivalu was sin-binned but the Pacific Islanders responded superbly once again, earning a penalty try which also resulted in Havili being shown a yellow card.

Hooker Coles, who was only introduced 10 minutes into the second half, then took centre stage with an incredible cameo, crossing twice in the space of nine minutes to complete his treble.

Coles was on hand to add a fourth try for good measure with the Fiji forwards overpowered after Will Jordan went in the right corner to score on a night that saw prop Ethan de Groot made his All Blacks debut.

The four-try haul from Coles was the most by any forward from a Tier One country in a Test since the start of 2011.

New Zealand ran in 16 tries in a 102-0 demolition of Tonga.

Will Jordan helped himself to a five-try haul, while scrum-half Brad Weber ran in a hat-trick as the All Blacks reached a century of points for the sixth time in their history.

They are the only country to have achieved the feat more than once and it was the second time Tonga have found themselves on the receiving end.

Damian McKenzie got the scoring underway with a second-minute try and the full-back went on to claim three assists as nine All Blacks crossed overall.

Dalton Papalii's first-half double, along with Jordan and Weber getting into their work meant it was 43-0 at half-time and worse was to follow for the visitors, who were without the bulk of their northern hemisphere players due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and named 13 debutants.

Luke Jacobson, Richie Mo'unga, Rieko Ioane and Patrick Tuipulotu all got in on the act in the second half, marking an emphatic start to their 2021 schedule having won only half of their six 2020 outings.

 

Mo'unga landed seven conversions before making way for Beauden Barrett, back from his sabbatical in Japan.

Barrett added the extra for a fourth and final time after the hooter when George Bridge compounded Tonga's misery by bringing up three figures – his try a reward for a tireless performance where the wing made seven clean breaks.

New Zealand claimed victory in the World Test Championship final as they chased down a fourth-innings target of 139 with eight wickets to spare at the Ageas Bowl.

Captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor combined in an unbroken 96-run stand as the Black Caps, so often the bridesmaids through the years, became the inaugural winners of the tournament in the final hour of play.

Rain had threatened to spoil the showpiece fixture in Southampton, but the addition by the International Cricket Council of a reserve day allowed for an absorbing conclusion to proceedings.

India had resumed in the morning on 64-2, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli at the crease looking to build on a precarious 32-run lead.

However, both overnight batsmen fell early in proceedings to the impressive Kyle Jamieson, Kohli caught behind for 13 before Pujara (15) fell soon after, leaving the score at 72-4 as New Zealand struck two huge blows.

It would have been even better had Tim Southee held onto a chance from Rishabh Pant when he was on just five, Jamieson the unfortunate bowler. The left-hander went on to top score with 41, a crucial knock in the circumstances.

Trent Boult dismissed Pant – caught superbly by Henry Nicholls having skied the ball high into the air – as he finished with figures of 3-39, also seeing off Ajinkya Rahane (15) and Ravindra Jadeja (16).

There were also two late wickets for Southee – who ended up with 4-48 in the innings – as India slipped from 142-5 to 170 all out.

Ravichandran Ashwin gave India a glimmer of hope when he removed both New Zealand openers, Tom Latham the first to go when stumped for nine before Devon Conway was trapped lbw having contributed 19.

Yet Williamson and Taylor, who finished 52 and 47 not out respectively, did not panic when coming together at 44-2, slowly building a partnership that would blossom with the finishing line in sight.

 

Standing tall on the biggest stage

Jamieson has been a revelation for the Black Caps in Test cricket. He finished with stunning match figures of 7-61 from 46 overs, of which 22 were maidens.

In total, 83 per cent of his deliveries were pitched outside off stump, the highest rate of any bowler for New Zealand. The plan worked too, as six of his seven wickets came from balls landing in that area.

Middling returns from big names

No Indian player managed to post a half-century. Pujara, Kohli and Rahane were crucial in helping their team qualify for the final, but their low returns in the game continued a recent trend.

Since the beginning of 2019, the trio have registered a combined total of six Test centuries. In the two years prior to that, however, they had 18 hundreds between them in the longest format.

The World Test Championship final remains delicately poised after India ended the penultimate day at the Ageas Bowl on 64-2, giving them a slender lead of 32 runs.

After Monday's play was washed out at a sodden Southampton, New Zealand finally moved on from 101-2 to post 249 in their first innings, captain Kane Williamson pointing the way with 49.

There were also useful runs from the lower order – Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee contributed 21 and 30 respectively – as the Black Caps managed to overhaul India's total of 217.

Trailing by 32 as they came out to bat for a second time, India lost opener Shubman Gill, trapped lbw by Southee for eight, before they had erased the deficit in the final session.

Rohit Sharma also fell to the same bowler for 30 in the closing stages of proceedings, leaving Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli to see their side to the close. They will resume on 12 and eight respectively.

New Zealand will hope to make early inroads on the sixth and final day, which was added by the International Cricket Council as a provision for time being lost to bad weather.

Mohammed Shami helped restrict New Zealand's advantage with 4-76, including dismissing BJ Watling and Colin de Grandhomme as the Kiwis slipped to 162-6.

Yet the resolute Williamson remained, producing a crucial 177-ball knock that included six fours. His vigil finally came to an end when he was well caught by opposite number Kohli at a wide third slip off Ishant Sharma when one shy of a half-century.

Spin duo Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja wrapped up the innings, though New Zealand's wagging tail means they appear the more likely winners on Wednesday.


Go-slow approach sees Kane able to move up

During his battling knock, Williamson surpassed Stephen Fleming (7,172) to become New Zealand's second highest run-scorer in Test cricket on 7,178, only behind current team-mate Ross Taylor (7,517) on the list. The latter reached a personal milestone while making 11, bringing up 18,000 international runs across all formats.

Shami shines with leather but still comes up short

Despite Kohli giving him every opportunity, Shami was unable to register his sixth five-wicket haul in Tests. The pace bowler produced a beauty to dismiss Watling, bowling the wicketkeeper for just one as India sensed the opportunity to seize a first-innings lead.

New Zealand were unable to build a lead on day four of the World Test Championship final against India as no play was possible due to rain.

There was frustration when the opening day was washed out in Southampton and it was the same story on a miserable Monday.

The Black Caps had taken the upper hand on day three, Kyle Jamieson taking 5-31 as Virat Kohli's side collapsed to 217 all out.

Devon Conway was dismissed for 54 late in the day, but New Zealand were in a promising position on 101-2 at stumps – trailing by 116.

Although a reserve day has been set aside for Wednesday, a draw would appear the most likely outcome in the inaugural final.

Kyle Jamieson and Devon Conway continued their magnificent starts to life in the longest format to put New Zealand in charge of the rain-affected World Test Championship final against India.

A first-day washout at the Ageas Bowl before Saturday's action was truncated by bad light means a positive result might not be possible, even allowing for Wednesday's reserve day.

However, towering seamer Jamieson (5-31) picked up his fifth five-for in eight Tests as India were dismissed for 217 under leaden skies before opener Conway (54) passed 50 for the third time in five innings to help Kane Williamson's men close on 101-2.

A day of New Zealand domination was not necessarily on the cards when India skipper Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane resumed their 59-run partnership with the score 146-3, although Jamieson was quickly on the money.

He nipped one back to trap Kohli in front for 44, unable to add to his overnight score.

Rahane also missed out on a half-century, falling a run shy of the landmark when he popped Neil Wagner (2-40) to Tom Latham at midwicket. That made it 182-6 – Rishabh Pant had grown frustrated at failing to get off the mark for 20 balls before throwing his bat at the 22nd and edging Jamieson to Latham for four.

Ravindra Jadeja (15) and Ravichandran Ashwin (22) offered a modicum of lower-order resistance but Jamieson had his fifth when he pinned Jasprit Bumrah lbw.

Mohammed Shami's average of 47.95 across nine Tests in England is by far his worst in any country, although the India paceman was desperately unlucky not to improve upon those numbers across a 11 probing overs, with Conway and Latham both ballooning edges over the cordon.

Off-spinner Ashwin (1-20) gave one some extra flight to have Latham taken by Kohli at short extra cover for 30, ending a 70-run opening stand.

After bringing up a fine half century to sit alongside 200 and 80 in his debut series against England, Conway will be frustrated to have flicked to wide mid-on when Ishant Sharma overpitched.

Williamson (12 not out) remained when bad light intervened once more – the elements now arguably more likely to deny his side glory as opposed to anything India might muster in Southampton.

Kyle the king of swing and seam

Jamieson might not be the sort of express pace bowler whose emergence on the scene provokes widespread excitement, but he is a relentless performer and his nagging line, length and lift proved perfect in gloomy English conditions. He might race to 50 Test wickets before this game is out, currently on 44 at a remarkable average of 14.13.

India's big hitters come up short

Kohli's review for a plum lbw certainly fell into the L'Oreal category and India's day did not improve. It feels slightly harsh to highlight Rahane, who top-scored when batting was tough, but the manner in which he plonked himself into an obvious trap set by Wagner will gnaw away at him. The richly gifted Pant never looked like matching Kohli and Rahane's efforts during a torturous stay where he appeared completely ill-suited to the situation.

Virat Kohli was nearing a half-century when bad light stopped play in the World Test Championship final as India's captain led a recovery against New Zealand.

Day one of the showpiece was lost to rain and the players were met with gloomy, overcast conditions in Southampton for day two.

Such surroundings naturally suited New Zealand's pace attack, with the Black Caps, fresh off a 1-0 series win over England, reducing India to 88-3.

But, as he has done so often throughout his career, Kohli lifted India, reaching 44 not out with a disciplined innings that featured just one four before the fading light forced the players off.

India were 146-3 when stumps were called, a score that may have been deemed underwhelming after Rohit Sharma (34) and Shubman Gill put on 62 for the opening wicket.

Yet the continually impressive Kyle Jamieson broke that stand with a full delivery that drew a thick edge from Rohit.

New Zealand applied the pressure and just one run had been added when Gill's stay at the crease was ended with Neil Wagner's third delivery, which saw the opener caught behind for 28.

Kohli steadied the ship, but Cheteshwar Pujara, having slashed a four through backward point and then creamed another through the covers, eventually succumbed to a vintage delivery from Trent Boult, whose inswinger trapped him in front.

However, the India skipper found a partner with staying power in Ajinkya Rahane, who found the rope four times in his unbeaten 29 before the light meters returned a result that stopped their progress cold.


PUJARA'S POOR FORM PERSISTS

With his dismissal for eight, Pujara has failed to score more than 21 runs in each of his past six innings. He has scores of 15, 21, seven, none, 17 and eight since his first-innings 73 against England in Chennai in February. The 33-year-old is out of form and it is fair to wonder whether he will keep his place with a series against England on the horizon.

WILL SPOILS BE SHARED?

Had this game been played a week earlier, there would have been no doubt of a result as England was bathed in sunshine. Now, even with the prospect of using a reserve day, it is questionable whether there will be enough play to deliver a result, with rain forecast on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The final could turn into a non-event, and there is an increasing likelihood the teams will share the Test Championship mace.

India and New Zealand were frustrated by the English weather as day one of the inaugural World Test Championship final in Southampton was washed out.

Rain on Friday meant the International Cricket Council (ICC) showpiece match could not get under way as planned at the Ageas Bowl, with players seen splashing through puddles on the outfield as they checked out the conditions.

The decision to call off the day's scheduled play came at close to 14:45 local time. Weather forecasts for the area suggest rain could be a factor on several days of the match.

Wednesday has been set aside as a reserve day, to allow the teams to make up any time lost if necessary.

The ICC said on Twitter: "Due to persistent rain, play has been abandoned on day one of the #WTC21 Final in Southampton."

India and New Zealand were frustrated by the English weather as day one of the inaugural World Test Championship final in Southampton was washed out.

Rain on Friday meant the International Cricket Council (ICC) showpiece match could not get under way as planned at the Ageas Bowl, with players seen splashing through puddles on the outfield as they checked out the conditions.

The decision to call off the day's scheduled play came at close to 14:45 local time. Weather forecasts for the area suggest rain could be a factor on several days of the match.

Wednesday has been set aside as a reserve day, to allow the teams to make up any time lost if necessary.

The ICC said on Twitter: "Due to persistent rain, play has been abandoned on day one of the #WTC21 Final in Southampton."

Spin duo Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been named in India's side for the ICC World Test Championship final against New Zealand at the Ageas Bowl.

The Black Caps did not face a frontline spinner in a 1-0 Test series victory over England, but they will have to contend with two in Southampton.

Ashwin and Jadeja were named in a five-match bowling attack along with Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah on the eve of an inaugural final that is due to start on Friday, but poor weather could result in an opening-day washout.

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and wicketkeeper-batsman BJ Watling are expected to be fit to return after missing the decisive second Test win over England at Edgbaston.

Watling will be playing in the final match of his professional career if he gets the nod to replace Tom Blundell.

Wednesday has been set aside as a reserve day in case a full five days cannot be completed and that may be required with rain and storms forecast.

New Zealand are top of the rankings and come into the game on a high after securing their first Test series win in England since 1999, hammering Joe Root's side by eight wickets early on day four.

They demonstrated their strength in depth by making six changes, with Matt Henry claiming the man of the match award after he was among the players to come into the side.

Skipper Williamson, who has been troubled by an elbow injury, is delighted with the strides his side have made and says there is more to come.

"There's been a lot of growth over a period of time so many challenges along the way every day but the team has bought into it and tried to move past those with a good attitude," the prolific batsman said.

"There is lot of hard work done over a long period of time to find ourselves here in the first final.

"It's exciting but for us it's just focusing on continuing that growth and trying to keep committing to the parts of our game that give us the best chance and that's where I know the guys will be focusing on. We are trying to look at the long game and try and improve all the time."

 

INDIA IN A QUEST FOR EXCELLENCE - KOHLI

Captain Virat Kohli says India will remain in a quest for excellence regardless of the outcome in the final.

He said: "For us as a team we have been on a quest for excellence for a while now. And we are going to continue to be on that path regardless of what happens in this game. We have no doubts whatsoever in our abilities and what we can do as a side.

"As an individual player, look, we won the 2011 World Cup which was a great moment for all of us. But cricket goes on. Just the way life goes on. And you have to treat failure and success the same way, and you have to treat the so-called outstandingly big moments pretty similar to the other moments as well.

"So, yes, it is an occasion that has to be enjoyed from our point of view, but it is not different for us or no more important for us than the first Test match that we played together as a young group of players back in the day when we were trying to come up the ranks. So, yes, the mindset remains the same."
 

BLACK CAPS SPOILT FOR CHOICE

New Zealand's bowlers tore through England in the second innings at Edgbaston, skittling them out for only 122 in another demonstration that the selectors are spoilt for choice.

Henry, Trent Boult, Neil Wagner and India-born spinner Ajaz Patel did the damage as Tim Southee and Kyle Jamieson were among the players given a chance to put their feet up.

Pacemen Southee and Jamieson starred when New Zealand whitewashed India 2-0 last year.

Southee was named man of the match with match figures of 9-110 in the first Test at Basin Reserve and Jamieson picked up the award in the second match, taking 5-45 in the first innings. 

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- The previous seven Tests matches between the two nations have seen each team pick up three wins (D1).
- India have lost each of their previous two matches at the venue against England, while this will be the Black Caps' first Test at the ground.
- Kohli's side have lost just one of their past seven Tests (W5, D1), the loss coming at home to England in February.
- No spinner has dismissed Williamson more times in Test cricket than Ashwin (five, also Pragyan Ojha). His false shot percentage of 21.9 per cent against Ashwin is his highest against any bowler he has faced a minimum of 150 balls.

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