Bermuda v Bahamas International Series Wrap

The Bermuda national men’s team played host to their counterparts from Bahamas this weekend for a five-game friendly series, with one fifty-over clash and four T20 games played over four days on the beautiful mid-Atlantic island .

For the Bermuda Cricket Board, the series was arranged as a test event, both off and on the field, to help it prepare for hosting the ICC Twenty20 World Cup Americas Regional qualifier tournament next month, where it will play alongside the USA, Canada and the Cayman Islands.

Accordingly, the first three games were held at White Hill Field in Sandys Parish in the western end of Bermuda, which is to be used as the second venue for the WT20 qualifiers, with the last two held at the National Sports Centre in Devonshire just outside the capital Hamilton.

On the pitch, coach Herbie Bascombe assembled a large squad of both senior and junior players for the series, with the aim of giving as many players as possible a taste of international cricket ahead of selecting a smaller squad for the WT20 qualifiers.

For the Bahamas, the games presented a rare opportunity to play international cricket as they look to build the sport’s profile back home and move up the ICC rankings.

Day 1 – Fifty-Over International

The first game was held on Thursday 25th July at White Hill. Batting first, the hosts amassed 269/7 from their 50 overs, led by an imperious century from big opener Treadwell Gibbons, whose enjoyment at reaching three figures was cut short as he retired hurt immediately afterwards, hobbling off to a fine ovation from teammates, opponents and spectators alike.

White Hill Field during the 50-over clash. Photograph by Neil Joynson
The scoreboard at White Hill marks the century and retirement of Bermuda’s Treadwell Gibbons. Photograph by Neil Joynson

He was assisted by Pierre Smith who notched a fifty in an opening partnership of 137 with Gibbons, and a 22-ball 37 from 18-year old Dalin Richardson, Bermuda’s Under 19 captain, fresh from scoring a half century for the U-19s against Argentina in Canada a couple of weeks ago. For the Bahamas, captain Gregory Taylor notched three Bermudian wickets, as did Randolph Fox.

In their reply the Bahamas were blasted out for 107 in just 25.4 overs, with Ryan Tappin top scoring on 24. With the ball, Bermuda were led by quick bowlers Mackih McGowan (4-29) and Kwasi James (3-19).

Scorecard here

Day 2 – Twenty20 games #1 and #2

The next day, White Hill saw attention switch to the shorter format of the game, with two T20s, although despite both Bermuda and Bahamas being accredited by the ICC, and the ICC’s decision to grant all 20-over games between member associations full T20I status, these games were not granted that full status.

However, that did little to dampen their importance to both sides. This is the format Bermuda will be focusing on most ahead of the all-important ICC qualifier next month, and it is the format that will allow Bahamas to gain official status for the first time at some stage in their future.

In the morning game, Bahamas batted first and struggled to 73 all out from 14.5 overs, with Tappin again top scoring on 25. Captain Greg Taylor indicated after the game that his side had very little experience playing on a turf wicket, and struggled with the slow pace of the track. Bermuda selected in their XI their star all-rounder Kamau Leverock, back home for a stint from his place with Nottinghamshire second XI in England. He claimed 4 wickets for 22 runs with the ball, but even this was outshone by teammate Dion Stovall who returned the astonishing figures of 4-2 off 2 overs!

Bermuda quickly knocked off their target of 74 in just 6.2 overs, but not before Greg Irving got the big wicket of Leverock for a second ball duck!

The Bahamas fared much better in the afternoon game, bringing up 136/8 off their 20 overs batting first, led by a fine 60 from Marc Taylor, younger brother of Greg. Charles Trott highlighted the bowling figures for the hosts, with 3-16. In the second innings, Bermuda overcame the target in 14.2 overs, with half centuries for Terryn Fray (56) and Oronde Bascome (52*).

The Taylor brothers, Marc and Greg, bat for Bahamas in the 2nd T20. Photograph by Neil Joynson.

Scorecard Game #1 here

Scorecards Game #2 here

Day 3 – Twenty20 games #3 and #4

Saturday 27th July was a rest fay for the visitors, with most of the Bermuda team playing in trial matches for Somerset and St Georges ahead of the domestic classic Cup Match next week, so it was not until Sunday that the teams met again in two more T20s. These games were played at the impressive North field at the National Sports Centre.

The crowd watches on at the National Sports Centre. Photograph by Neil Joynson

There was heavy rain ahead of the morning game which didn’t help the track, and Bahamas again struggled to 72/9 which Bermuda easily chased down scoring 73/2.

In the final T20 of the series on Sunday afternoon, Bahamas again batted first and showing some signs of fatigue from an arduous few days, limped along to 62/9 from 19 overs, hampered by an injury to key batsman Tappin who was forced to retire on 10. Dennis Brangman topped the bowling figures for the hosts with 3-12, and opening bat Gibbons chipped in with 2 wickets as well.

Bermuda chased their final target easily, with opener Allan Douglas hitting a fine 31 from 20 balls before falling c&b to Randolph Fox. Fittingly, it was left to first day centurion Gibbons to hit the winning runs sealing a 5-0 series win for the Gombey Warriors.

Scorecard Game #3 – tbc

Scorecard Game #4 here

Bermuda’s Treadwell Gibbons hits the winning runs in the final T20. Photograph by Neil Joynson
The two teams share a handshake at the end of the tour. Photograph by Neil Joynson

Random musings from the World Cup Group Stage

Now that the dust has settled on the Group Stage of the 2019 World Cup, I thought it would be fun to dust off the blog  and share some of my thoughts on the tournament from a fans perspective following from overseas. Not stats-related, not a review as such, just a few of my random musings about the six weeks that have passed! Here goes

Format and Schedule – okay but for the wrong reasons!

When the format and schedule was announced I assumed that around three weeks into the mega-group stage, the first signs of boredom would have crept in and I would be losing interest. After four weeks, I suspected I may have all but given up. The group had the potential to be tedious, endless and full of dead rubbers.

However, this never transpired, albeit largely thanks to Sri Lanka’s shock win over England. As evidence for my continued engagement, I live in Bermuda and most of the games started in my time zone at 6.30am. I am absolutely not a morning person but throughout I have been dutifully getting up at that ungodly hour to start watching the day’s game – a very very rare occurrence that I am seen alive before 8am believe me! ! have been thoroughly entertained, and frankly I am as surprised by this as you are.

However, my enjoyment of the tournament has been despite, not because, of the format. Let me be 100% clear, this format sucks. It is exclusionary to the point of Machiavellian and was clearly designed by the ICC to maximise profit and to ensure as best they could (without actually match-fixing!) that the Big 3got through to the semis. We couldn’t have India exposed to the risks of a shock defeat in a small group meaning they didn’t qualify for the semis now could we (ahem, 2007!), and by making all teams play nine times, the risk of this is minimised, in fact all but eliminated.

Not to mention the shutting out of any Associates. This has been decried, discussed and despised by so many people that it is hardly worthwhile me repeating it here, but a World Cup in any sport should be inclusive and seek to grow the popularity of the sport beyond its usual reach. Cricket does itself a huge disservice by being so closed-minded and driven by profit.

Because of this, half of me really wanted this format to fail to deliver an exciting World Cup, as that might…just might…have led the ICC to reconsider for 2023, but sadly I can’t see that happening now.

You hardly needed to be Nostradamus

As if to prove the above point, half the cricketing world correctly predicted the top four six weeks ago. Three of the four were an almost certainty to make the semis, with the fourth being strong favourites to join them. Two or three others were given dark horse status pre-tournament, but no-one really believed that! So, in many ways, the last few weeks have been a massive waste of everyone’s time!

The wonderful Shakib Al Hasan

The rest of the world now knows what many of us having been saying for a long time – that Shakib Al Hasan is a superstar and the best all-rounder in world cricket (save possibly for Ellyse Perry!).

We are not worthy!

There have been many other stand-out performances in this World Cup – Rohit, Bumrah, Warner, Starc, Archer, Root, Williamson, Ferguson, Shaheen to name a few – but no-one has come close to the all round impact on his team than Bangladesh’s talisman has, and he must be a strong favourite for the Player of the Tournament award despite not making the semis.

Net Run Rate is suddenly bad eh Mickey?

Some of those – I’m looking at you Mickey Arthur – whingeing about the unfairness of Net Run Rate (NRR) as a tie-breaker were strangely quiet on the subject before the tournament began weren’t they? It’s almost as if their criticism is based solely on the effect to specifically had on their team at the end. I don’t know, but maybe one way of ensuring NRR doesn’t come back to bite you is not getting blasted out for 103 in your first game putting you on the back foot from the start?

Better late than never I guess!

For the next World Cup, someone at Cricket South Africa headquarters should set an Outlook alarm or something, so that their team turns up on time, not five weeks late. Had they started the tournament as they finished it, who knows what might have happened?

Retirements

World cricket will greatly miss a few players for which this tournament is their swansong, in ODIs at least. Despite everything that comes with his talent, I will miss Universe Boss Chris Gayle and seeing him bowling with sunglasses and cap on was an absolute highlight. Imran Tahir’s sheer love of taking wickets and his sprinting ability has been a joy to watch, and Shoaib Malik has been a fine servant to Pakistan for many years. A few more retirements of modern-day legends may well be announced in due course (Amla, Malinga?) and they will equally be missed.

Salute!

Sheldon Cottrell and his salute have been a breath of fresh air. His engagement with the fans, especially children as evidenced by the videos circulating of him taking the time out to perform his signature celebration with youngsters, have been wonderful to see. This is exactly the kind of thing cricket needs to engage a future audience. We should be the ones saluting you Sheldon!

We salute you Sheldon!

Cricket bat guitar guy deserves harsh treatment

Whoever came up with the concept of that bloody awful Gray Nicholls cricket-bat guitar screeching at every break deserves to be loaded into a very large cannon and fired directly into the centre of the Sun. This may seem a little harsh, but it isn’t – if anything it is too good for them!

Commendable Commentators

That loveable teddy bear-like Kiwi, Ian Smith, is still comfortably my favourite commentator -I especially enjoyed him giving Michael “Slats” Slater a hard time when they were on together. Although I must be mellowing in my old age, as I have actually warmed to Slats in this tournament. He used to make my ears bleed in his Channel Nine days when I lived in Oz, but maybe all he needed was to be separated from the rest of that nauseating old boys club?

Smithy!

Of the commentators I don’t get to hear very often, I also quite liked Pommie Mbangwe and Shaun Pollock, and Kumar Sangakkarra is as good at commentating as he is at everything else – i.e. very very good.

On the flip side, it would be good if Sourav Ganguly could at least try to pronounce players names correctly, and as for Michael Clarke, whatever he might be saying is lost as my head struggles to cope with him saying “nooooooice” all the time like something out of Kath and Kim! Please, for the love of God, make it stop!

Noooooiiiice Clarkey!

This Could Be The Best Year Of Your Life!

Watching the tournament online through Hotstar, I have gained over the last six weeks an intimate knowledge of at least five methods in which to remit funds to India should I ever need to, although of the five I definitely won’t be choosing that “bad compromise” guy – he makes my skin crawl! Also, Virat Kohli is a much better commercials actor than Joe Root ever will be – wooden is an understatement Joe!

Oh and I did buy the annual pack, so this is indeed going to be the best year of my life!

Onwards to an ideal final?

So onwards to the semi-finals and finals. I don’t have any predictions for you, but being an Englishman married to a Kiwi, I am firmly hoping for an England v New Zealand final. My two favourite teams and will ensure that the World Cup has a new winner. Surely no-one wants to see Australia win for a sixth time – that would just be boring 😊

If you’ve enjoyed this, head over to my Twitter account for real time comments, musings and stats updates!

Pakistan v New Zealand Test Series Preview

With the T20 and ODI now series behind us, Pakistan host New Zealand for a three-Test series in their adopted desert home of the UAE. The first Test at Abu Dhabi starts on Friday, and is followed up by a second Test in Dubai before returning to Abu Dhabi for the final encounter.

Losing away from home has become the norm for most Test sides in recent years  – leaving aside of course Zimbabwe winning the first Test against Bangladesh in Sylhet recently, and England likewise against Sri Lanka in Galle – victories so unusual that they made the cricketing world stand up and take notice. The BlackCaps, noting this trend, have developed a fool-proof method over the last two years of ensuring they don’t lose away from home – by simply not playing Test matches outside of New Zealand!

Their last eleven Tests have been played at home, and they haven’t ventured beyond the Shaky Isles wearing whites since October 2016. One could be tempted to call it “The land of the long white clothes drought”! The BlackCaps form in those home Tests has been great -winning series against England, Bangladesh, West Indies and Pakistan – and has seen them move up to fourth in the world Test rankings.

Pakistan for their part have had very indifferent form in the longest format over the same two-year period – winning just five of fifteen tests played, a run which has seen them drop to seventh in the rankings. Even so, they were too strong for New Zealand’s neighbours Australia, taking out the recent two match series in the UAE 1-0.

Familiarity of conditions will be a factor as it always is in the emirates. Added to New Zealand’s lack of recent experience anywhere overseas, Pakistan’s pedigree in the UAE is of course strong – having won 16 of their 32 Tests played in the country. The last series between the two sides there ended 1-1, and there is every chance that another close series will ensue this time around.

So plenty to keep us entertained and, as always, here is my run down of the potential individual milestones in reach for players of both sides as the series unfolds:

Ross Taylor (New Zealand)

Veteran Taylor has been in great form in the white-ball stuff, although the less said about his calling Mohammad Hafeez for chucking the better. Let’s all hope he returns to letting his bat do the talking – he needs just 139 runs to overtake Stephen Fleming’s 15,319 runs and become his country’s leading run scorer in international cricket, across all formats. That will be a remarkable achievement for a batsman that shows no signs of slowing down.

Kane Williamson (New Zealand)

BlackCaps skipper Williamson currently has 5.338 Test runs to his name, and 106 more will see him past New Zealand legend Martin Crowe into fourth place for his country.

Meanwhile, just 54 runs will see him to 12,000 runs in all formats.

Neil Wagner (New Zealand)

Neil Wagner has become one of new Zealand’s most feared bowlers in Tests of late and he needs just one wicket to bring up 150 for his country.

Trent Boult (New Zealand)

Fresh from taking a hattrick in the first ODI last week, in-form quick Boult has 215 Test wickets in his ledger – four more will see him overtake Chris Cairns’ 218 and move into fifth place for his country. Long time teammate Tim Southee is next on the list at 220.

Yasir Shah (Pakistan)

The Pakistani Lionel Messi has taken 173 Test wickets, which sees him as the eleventh highest wicket taker for Pakistan. He’ll be confident of rocketing up that particular chart – five wickets will see him break into the top-ten, overtaking Sarfraz Nawaz, one more past joint  eighth-placed Saeed Ajmal and Shoaib Akhtar, and thirteen will take him into seventh past Mushtaq Ahmed.

Asad Shafiq (Pakistan)

Middle order batsman Shafiq needs just 67 runs to bring up 4,000 career Test runs.

Sri Lanka v England – First Test Preview

Having already navigated their away around both the incessant rain and their opponents in the ODI and T20I legs of their tour of Sri Lanka, England now turn their attention to red ball cricket, when the first of three Test matches gets underway in the shadow of the famous Galle fort on Tuesday.

Above: The famous Galle Fort will play backdrop to the first Test from Tuesday.

The weather has been an ever-present issue on this tour, not surprising given it was scheduled in the middle of monsoon season for reasons known only to the people in charge of scheduling, and it has continued to be so in the run-up to the Tests. England’s final warm up was curtailed to just a 50-over a side affair thanks to yet another biblical downpour. That has not help their preparations one bit, and they still have several decisions to make before the first ball is bowled in Galle.

This is the first outing in white clothing since the retirement of legendary opening batman Alastair Cook in the summer, and the side continues to have a developmental feel to it. The camp has been further rocked by the ankle injury sustained by Jonny Bairstow playing football in training, which means they enter the match in Galle without their first choice keeper.

There are as many as four uncapped players in England’s squad. One of them, Surrey’s Rory Burns, is a shoe-in to replace Cook, and his county team-mate Ben Foakes could make his debut in place of Bairstow if the selectors are wary of placing too much responsibility on Jos Buttler. Joe Denly is also a potential starter in either the other opening slot (at the expense of Keaton Jennings), or at three depending on how England want to balance their side. The also need to decide whether or not to play two or three spinners – with jack Leach seemingly in contention with Stuart Broad for the final bowling slot.

Although ranked third in the world, England’s form in Tests can best be described as topsy-turvy of late. They are coming off a 4-1 series win over India, where the eventual scoreline flattered them, and prior to that drew at home with Pakistan and suffered series defeats to both Australia and New Zealand down under. Away from in particular is a worry – England have not won a Test outside of Great Britain for over two years, a run of 10 defeats and three draws in that time. Add to that an overall losing record in Sri Lanka and having never won in four attempts at Galle, and it does seem like an uphill effort for the visitors.

For the hosts, this match is likely going to be an emotional one, as it marks the last appearance of the seemingly ageless spinner Rangana Herath, who has announced he will retire at the end of the first Test, aged 40. Herath has become a much-loved legend over the last ten years, and his numbers are astonishing in that period, taking nearly 400 wickets since his 30th birthday – a world record by a wide margin – and becoming the leading left-handed wicket taker in Test history. He will be sorely missed, and the home team will be pumped to give him a farewell win that he richly deserves.

Sri Lanka’s form over the last year or so in Tests is, perhaps surprisingly, quite good. Despite being ranked a lowly sixth, they have won their last three Tests, and indeed only lost two of their last twelve. In that period they have notched up series wins over South Africa at home, Bangladesh away and Pakistan in the UAE – the latter a feat not many teams can lay claim to in recent years. They are a very strong side in turning conditions, and will be a stern challenge for their visitors.

So, all in all, a fascinating Test awaits – let’s hope the rain stays away long enough to let it proceed as planned!

As always, here is my run-down of some personal milestones to keep an eye out for over the next week:

Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)

Where else to start but with the retiring Herath, who currently has 430 Test wickets to his name, enough for tenth place in the all-time list. Five more wickets in his final Test could see him leapfrog New Zealand’s Richard Hadlee (9th, 431), England’s Stuart Broad (8th, 433 -but see below!) and India’s Kapil Dev (7th, 434) and ensure he keeps his spot in the top ten for a good few years ahead.

Stuart Broad (England)

Due to the spinning conditions, England’s second highest wicket-taker of all time is by no means guaranteed to keep his place in the XI, but if he does, he will also be looking to overtake Kapil Dev and move into 7th place in the wicket takers list (and to keep the wily Rangana from overtaking him to boot!)

Adil Rashid (England)

Having broken back into the Test side at home over the summer, and a certainty to play in Galle, Rashid needs two wickets to bring up both 200 in all formats for his country, and 50 in Tests.

Ben Stokes (England)

All-rounder Stokes needs just 26 runs with the bat to bring up 5,000 across all formats for England.

Jimmy Anderson (England)

More famed of course for his record-breaking exploits with the ball, barring declarations and innings victories, Jimmy will make his 200th appearance at the batting crease for England in Tests!

 

Pakistan v New Zealand – T20I Series Preview

What do bears, bats, and squirrels have in common with the New Zealand cricket team? They all go into hibernation over winter of course!

The BlackCaps have not played a single day of competitive cricket in any format since the 3rd of April, a gap of nigh-on seven whole months. In the modern age of packed international schedules, this seems like a strange anomaly, and you’d be forgiven for having forgotten what Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and their cohorts look like!

Above: a bear emerging from hibernation, or is it Kane Williamson?!

But the wait is nearly over for us to reacquaint ourselves with the friendlier type of Antipodean cricketer, as Williamson leads his men out of their long winter hiatus, and into an all-format tour of the UAE to play Pakistan in three T20Is , three ODIs and three Tests.

The T20s are up first, starting on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, with the remaining two games on Friday and Sunday in Dubai.

After the recent Pakistan-Australia series was played out for a giant Tuc-cracker trophy, we await with baited breath to see what comedy cup the sponsors come up with for this series – maybe a giant pavlova in honour of the visitors?!

Whatever form the trophy takes, getting their hands on it will present a daunting challenge for New Zealand, especially allowing for the lack of match practice and the unfamiliar conditions in the Middle East. Pakistan are on a high – the number one ranked T20 side in the world have just wrapped up a crushing 3-0 series win over the Australians, and have only lost four of their last thirty games in the format, stretching back over 2-and-a-half years.

By contrast, New Zealand, ranked fifth, have only won two games out of their last eight and lost a three-match home series against Pakistan 2-1 at home at the beginning of the year. They have also been rocked by the absence through injury of opening batsman Martin Guptill – the leading run-scorer in mens’ T20 international history. His loss will be keenly felt.

A tough ask then for the BlackCaps, but hopefully they put up more of a challenge than Australia did, and we can see some close contests unfold in the UAE.

There are a number of individual statistical milestones within reach for players of both sides over the three-game series:

Shoaib Malik (Pakistan)

Already having made more T20 International appearances than anyone else, Malik has a chance to overtake the absent Guptill and move top of the run-scorers list too. Having scored 2153 runs in T20Is, he leapfrogged another Kiwi, Brendon McCullum, into second in the last of the three recent games against Australia – and would need 119 runs here to take Guptill’s crown.

Mohammad Hafeez (Pakistan)

Teammate Hafeez is currently tenth on that list with 1775 runs – and needs just 18 runs to overtake Australia’s suspended David Warner and move into ninth. 84 runs would see him move ahead of JP Duminy into eighth.

Ross Taylor (New Zealand)

Veteran Taylor has notched up 14,963 runs for New Zealand across all formats, needing just 37 to reach a very impressive 15,000 mark.

In Twenty20 Internationals he has 1415, so 85 more will see him become the third Kiwi to 1500.

Kane Williamson (New Zealand)

The Kiwi skipper for his part has 11,810 runs in all formats for the Blackcaps, which sees him in fifth place amongst his countrymen. Nathan Astle’s 11,866 is just 57 runs away from being usurped.

Tim Southee (New Zealand)

Quick bowler Southee has 62 wickets in Twenty20 Internationals, enough for joint eleventh place all-time, alongside South Africa’s Imran Tahir. A series haul of just six wickets here however could see him rocket up to sixth place – leaving Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi, as well as Ajantha Menthis, Nuwan Kulasekara and Stuart Broad, in his wake!

Bangladesh v Zimbabwe ODI Series Preview

Still smarting from being blanked across six games in South Africa, Zimbabwe have travelled to Bangladesh for three ODIs and two Tests, with the first ODI taking place on Sunday in Mirpur. The remaining two games will be played in Chittagong.

Zimbabwe, ranked eleventh in ODIs, are on the back of a ten-game losing streak having lost 3-0 in South Africa, 5-0 at home to Pakistan, and most heartbreakingly losing the last two games of the Cricket World Cup Qualifier at home against the UAE and West Indies, which snatched qualification from their grasp in sickening fashion.

Bangladesh for their part have made it to the finals of two multi-team tournaments this year – the Asia Cup in the UAE and a home tri-series featuring Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe – but lost both. Sandwiched in the middle of those tournaments was an ODI series win in the West Indies. They are ranked seventh in ODIs, and this is traditionally the format they have had the most success with, and they will again start favourites here.

As well as form, history is not on Zimbabwe’s side either. These two sides have a shared story, with their elevation through the ranks of recognition and status in world cricket having taken a similar path, and have played each other a staggering 69 times in ODIs. Bangladesh have taken out 41 of them to Zimbabwe’s 28, and the visitors have only won 2 out of the last 20 matches played in Bangladesh.

Zimbabwe may though take some comfort from the team news ahead of the series. Bangladesh are without two of their strongest and most decorated players in Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, both out injured. Zimbabwe though have welcomed back influential all-rounder Sikandar Raza to their ranks after he resolved his contract impasse with Zimbabwe Cricket. With Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams and Craig Ervine also back in the squad, they are almost at full strength for the first time in a long time – only missing former skipper Graeme Cremer, who is still nursing an injury.

An interesting series awaits for the two side and there are some personal milestones to keep a watch for for players of both sides:

Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh)

The Tigers’ wicketkeeper needs just 40 runs to bring up 10,000 across all formats for his country, and become just the third Bangladeshi after Shakib and Tamim to do so.

Elton Chigumubura (Zimbabwe)

Veteran all rounder Elton could be in for a spot of flower-collecting in the series!

He has appeared in 211 ODIs (including 3 for the Africa XI) making him the third most capped Zimbabwean in the format, If he appear in all three games of this series he will surpass Andy Flower and move into second.

With the ball, he has taken 101 ODI wickets (with six coming in those Africa XI games) which sees him as the fifth highest wicket-taking Zimbabwean. Four wickets in the series will see him overtake Andy’s brother Grant Flower  and move into fourth.

 

India v West Indies – ODI Series Preview

Fresh from completing a rather one-sided series sweep against West Indies in Tests, India now turn their attention to a five-game ODI series against the same opposition.

The first game is a day-night affair  – as are all matches in the series – to be played at the Nehru Stadium in Guwahati in Assam state on Sunday. Subsequent matches are to be played out in Visakhapatam, Pune, Mumbai’s Brabourne Stadium and, after some controversy, the Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvanathapuram, which will host its maiden ODI.

Above, the Greenfield International Stadium in Thiruvanathapuram was eventually confirmed as the venue for the fifth ODI on November 1st.

Wherever the games are held over India’s vast landmass, it certainly seems on paper that West Indies have a Himalayas-esque mountain to climb if they are to get anything from the series. Everything – rankings, form, squad experience, home advantage – seems stacked against Jason Holder’s men, and you suspect India will not be happy with anything less than a first ever clean-sweep over their Caribbean visitors.

India are buoyed by the return of their mighty captain Virat Kohli, who was rested for the Asia Cup campaign in the UAE, and have a strong squad for the series. India have named a XII for the first game already, with recent Test debutant keeper Rishabh Pant likely to make his ODI debut as a batsman. MS Dhoni keeps the gloves, and the only decision would appear to be between Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Shami as the final seamer.

West Indies are not in such a luxurious position. Firstly, their coach Stuart Law is suspended for the first two matches of the series for breaching the ICC Code of Conduct in the second test earlier this month. His squad contains no fewer than four potential international debutants – Oshane Thomas, Chandrapaul Hemraj, Fabian Allen and Obed McCoy – and is missing big names like the Bravos, Evin Lewis and Chris Gayle, who continues to manage his workload/bank balance ahead of the World Cup next year.

India are ranked second in ODIs and have won eleven of their fifteen 50-over games this year – winning 5-1 in South Africa and taking home the Asia Cup either side of a 2-1 series defeat to the only side ranked higher than them in the format, England.

By contrast, West Indies lost a three match series at home to Bangladesh last time out, their only ODIs this year aside from the Cricket World Cup Qualifier where they narrowly squeaked through to England 2019. Their ranking of ninth is not an injustice.

So, a potential banana-peel for India to navigate as they continue to hone their side ahead of the World Cup, and a daunting opportunity for an inexperienced West Indies side in unfamiliar conditions. Let’s hope they put up a fight, and make an interesting series of it over the next 11 days.

Aside from the big picture issues, there are a number of personal milestones to keep an eye on:

Virat Kohli (India)

Superstar captain Kohli returns to take the reins from stand-in Rohit Sharma for this series. He currently has 9,779 runs in the fifty-over format, needing just 221 to become the 13th man worldwide and fifth Indian (after Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and teammate MS Dhoni) to reach 10,000. If he gets there he will be by some conformable margin the quickest batsman ever to do so.

Shikhar Dhawan (India)

Dropped from the Test side, opener Dhawan has a point to prove, and a milestone to reach to boot. He needs 177 runs in the series to notch up 5,000 for his county in One Day Internationals.

Ravindra Jadeja (India)

Another batting milestone in sights for an Indian batsman – all rounder Jadeja looking for 38 runs to bring up 2,000 in ODIs.

MS Dhoni (India)

Veteran keeper and former skipper Dhoni is, as noted above, one of only 12 men to score more than 10,000 ODI runs. His 10.123 so far see him in twelfth spot, so he’ll be keen to score the 168 runs he needs to surpass Sri Lanka’s Tilakaratne Dilshan and move into eleventh.

Mohammed Shami (India)

With 91 wickets currently in his ledger, Shami needs just nine to bring up 100 for his country.

Marlon Samuels (West Indies)

Unlike some of his other high profile colleagues, all rounder Marlon Samuels has made himself available for the series. Should he be selected on Sunday in Guwahati, it will mark his 200th appearance for the Windies in ODIs.

Sri Lanka v England ODI Series Preview

The England mens’ side start their two-month long, all-format tour of Sri Lanka on Wednesday evening, when the first One Day International gets underway in the central city of Dambulla.

There are five ODIs in total to be played, with the first two at the Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, followed by two in Pallekele, Kandy before the series draws to a close at the R Premadasa Stadium in the capital Colombo. This is wet season in Sri Lanka, and rain is likely to be a factor as the series unfolds, much as it was in England’s warm up – with one of two practice games washed out completely and the other shortened by the weather.

Above: The Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, host to the first two ODIs.

England’s lack of match practice in the monsoonal sub-continental conditions will do little to dampen their status as hot favourites however. They enter the series as the world’s top ranked ODI side – a remarkable turnaround from the last time they visited Sri Lankan shores in late 2014. That series ended with a 5-2 loss to their hosts, and famously cost Alastair Cook his ODI captaincy job and his place in the squad for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand that followed in early 2015 to boot.

England left that World Cup with their tails between their legs after a humiliating group stage exit, that included  a heavy defeat to the Lankans, only for this to usher in a meteoric change in fortunes in the 50 over game. Trevor Bayliss and Eoin Morgan’s side have won their last eight bilateral series engagements – although they lost the semi-final in their home Champions Trophy to Pakistan and suffered a defeat in a one-off game to associate nation Scotland in between those victories. They have broken record after record during this rise, and can boast a settled side that is devoid of any obvious weaknesses. Their only real problem is fitting in all their world-class 50-over players into one starting XI!

Sri Lanka must look at their guests with envy. Once a swashbuckling side that everyone loved in ODIs and which found itself in two World Cup finals in recent years, winning one – they have since fallen on seriously hard times, and are ranked a lowly eighth in the format.

The Lions have lost three quarters of their last forty ODIs, recently suffering a series defeat to South Africa and crashing out of the Asia Cup at the group stage with defeats to Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Like Cook before him four years ago, that exit cost Angelo Mathews his job as captain and saw him booted from the squad for desserts. Dinesh Chandimal returns from injury and suspension to take the captaincy reins, the latest in a long-line of players to be tasked with skippering the islanders over the last couple of years.

One thing that isn’t on England’s side is history. They have only ever won one bilateral series in the unfamiliar conditions of Sri Lanka, back in 2007, and Sri Lanka’s overall record in matches between the sides at home is fifteen wins to England’s six. Their fans will be hoping that the cricketing gods will be reading from the history books rather than the form guides over the next couple of weeks!

With the two sides using the series to fine-tune their plans ahead of next year’s World Cup, a fascinating battle is on the cards.

There are also a number of significant personal milestones up for grabs for players of both sides:

Jonny Bairstow (England)

Likely to open the batting, YJB is in line for no less than three batting milestones in the series.

Firstly, he needs just 30 runs to score 1000 in ODIs in 2018. Only five Englishmen have managed the feat in a single calendar year before, so it would be a fabulous achievement.

Secondly, 38 runs will notch up 2,000 career runs in ODIs, and finally 71 runs will bring up 6,000 across all formats in his England career.

Jos Buttler (England)

Although Bairstow has the honour for Test matches, Buttler is England’s first choice wicketkeeper in ODIs. He is likely to solidify this status by becoming his country’s leading gloveman statistically during the series –  needing just one dismissal to break Alec Stewart’s record of 173.

When counting just catches, (i.e. not stumpings as well), Jos needs 12 to go past Stewart’s record of 159 for England.

Joe Root (England)

It seems remarkable to think that there were some commentators questioning Joe Root’s place in the ODI side earlier this year, but two consecutive centuries (and one bat-drop!) in the last two ODIs against India in July have put that kind of talk firmly where it belongs!

Overall, Root needs 134 runs to bring up 12,000 across all formats for England.

He also needs 200 runs to bring up 5.000 in ODIs, and a tough-but-not-inconceivable 293 to overtake Paul Collingwood as England’s third highest ODI run-scorer.

Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka)

Recalled for the Asia Cup, where his performances were one of the few highlights for Sri Lanka, the veteran Malinga the Slinger needs just three wickets in the series to bring up 500 across all formats for his country.

Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett (all England)

Woakes has 109 ODI wickets, enough for joint tenth place in England’s all time rankings, whilst Adil Rashid’s 113 and Liam Plunkett’s 114 see them in eighth and seventh places overall.

All three are breathing heavily down Phil de Freitas’ neck, with his sixth place tally of 115 under serious threat.

With the spin friendly conditions, and Plunkett missing the first two matches due to his wedding, Rashid looks like the favourite to end the series in that sixth spot, while poor old Phil could slip down to ninth!

Rashid (189) and Woakes (188) also need 11 and 12 wickets respectively to bring up 200 each across all formats for England.

Upul Tharanga (Sri Lanka)

Sri Lankan opener Tharanga currently has 6,936 ODI runs in his ledger, looking for just 64 to notch up 7,000.

Dinesh Chandimal (Sri Lanka)

Across all formats for Sri Lanka, skipper Chandimal has made 7,849 runs – so 151 here will see him to the 8,000 marker.

South Africa v Zimbabwe – Twenty20 International Series Preview

Fresh from finishing off a 3-0 ODI series sweep against their African neighbours Zimbabwe on Saturday, the South African men’s team now face a three game T20 International series against the same opponents.

Like the ODI series, the matches are to be played at some of South Africa’s “lesser” provincial grounds – the first at Buffalo Park in East London on Tuesday, and the second and third at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom and Willowmoore Park in Benoni.

Above: Buffalo Park (East London) and Senwes Park (Potchefstroom)

Although Zimbabwe showed some fight in the ODI series, especially the final game in Paarl, the Proteas will once again be strong favourites. Zimbabwe have lost their last eight T20 internationals dating back to June 2016, leading to them being ranked 12th in the format, behind Scotland. By contrast, South Africa are ranked sixth, although themselves are coming off a T20 loss to Sri Lanka in August, and a 2-1 series defeat to India earlier this year.

Zimbabwe have never actually beaten their neighbours in the shortest format, although they have only played three games together, so not a great smaple size. In fact this series will double the number of times the side have met!

Zimbabwe will once again have some of their most important players back in the squad, including Brendan Taylor, but are still missing former captain Graeme Cremer and all-rounder Sikander Raza following their falling out with the governing body.

For their part, South Africa will use the series to further explore their squad depth, and could hand debuts to two uncapped players in their squad – Gihahn Cloete and Rassie van der Dussen.

Aside from the potential debutants, there are a number of significant milestones for us to keep an eye on as the week unfolds.

Firstly, a little trivia in that the third game in Benoni will be the 700th Twenty20 International match with full ICC status worldwide. That number is likely to grow rapidly from 1 January 2019 of course, when all T20s between associate or full members of the ICC will be granted full T20 status.

Hamilton Masakadza (Zimbabwe)

Zimbabwe’s skipper is already his country’s leading T20 appearance maker and run scorer, and needs just six runs to reach 1,500 runs in the format.

JP Duminy (South Africa)

All rounder Duminy, if selected for two of the three series games, will overtake the retired AB de Villiers as the Proteas’ leading T20 international appearance maker. He is currently on 77 caps to de Villiers’ 78.

Imran Tahir (South Afrca)

One of the best short format bowlers in the world, Imran Tahir is just tow arms-outstretched wheeling celebrations away from becoming the Proteas’ leading wicket taker in the T20 format, overtaking Dale Steyn’s 58 scalps.

The 2018 Asia Cup – Preview

The 14th Asia Cup gets underway on Saturday 15th September, in Dubai – a tournament that brings together six Asian sides for the third most prestigious 50-over tournament on the international calendar. It promises to be a closely fought and entertaining tournament!

Above: The 2018 Asia Cup is unveiled in Abu Dhabi

Format

The five ICC full members from the region – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – are joined for the two-week event by Hong Kong, who prevailed from a qualifier event held earlier in the month in Malaysia.

Depsite Hong Kong not currently holding ODI status, the ICC confirmed on Sunday that all games in the tournament will be official ODIs. Incidentally, this is the third time Hong Kong will have been granted temporary ODI status for their appearance in the Asia Cup – the same thing happened in 2004 and 2008.

All games will be played at the Dubai Sports City stadium and the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Above: The Dubai Sports City and Sheikh Zayed stadiums where the tournament will be held.

The first round of the tournament is played in two groups of three on a single round-robin basis, each team playing the others in their group once. In Group A, qualifiers Hong Kong face the big two of India and Pakistan, while Group B consists of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The top two teams from each group then qualify for a “Super Four” second stage, where all teams play again in a single round-robin format. Results from the first stage do not carry over. The top two from the Super Four qualify for the Final in Dubai on the 28th September.

History

This is the 14th Asia Cup. The first event was also held in the UAE in 1984, although exclusively at Sharjah rather than in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, where this event will be held.

India are the most successful Asia Cup team, having won the event six times. Sri Lanka have been crowned Asian champions five times and Pakistan twice. Bangladesh best finish is as runners-up, while Afghanistan are playing in only their second Asia Cup tournament. Even Hong Kong have appeared more than that, having previously featured in the 2004 and 2008 edition.

India are also reigning Asia Cup champions, having won the 2016 competition which was held as a T20I format for the first time. Sri Lanka won the last tournament held in the 50-over format in 2014.

Form and rankings

India will no doubt be favourites again, being the top ranked ODI side in the tournament at 2nd. They will however be without talismanic captain Virat Kohli who is being rested for the tournament, and are coming off an ODI series defeat to England. Prior to that defeat they had thrashed South Africa 5-1 and beat Sri Lanka 2-1.

Pakistan, ranked 5th, will also fancy their chances, being reigning ICC Champions Trophy champions. Since that memorable tournament win, when they beat arch-rivals India in the final, their ODI form has been rather topsy-turvy – blanking Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe 5-0 either side of a 5-0 defeat to New Zealand. They are also playing in “home” conditions, having been largely based in the UAE since 2009.

Bangladesh are ranked 7th in ODIs, and it is arguably their favourite format. They recently beat the West Indies, but prior to that lost to Sri Lanka in the final of their home tri-series also featuring Zimbabwe.

Sri Lanka are ranked 8th , and have also had indifferent form in ODIs of late. They won their last two games against South Africa having already lost the series, but won the Bangladesh tri-series and lost to India.

Afghanistan are ranked 10th. Their last outing was a 2-1 series win over fellow new full member Ireland, and prior to that they won a World Cup Qualifier tournament in Zimbabwe that they were a hair’s breadth away from crashing out of at an early stage. Afghanistan have remarkably not played an ODI against an Asian full member side since 2016, so the tournament represents a rare opportunity to test themselves at this level.

Hong Kong famously lost their ODI status at the World Cup Qualifier in March, so don’t have an official ODI ranking. They recovered from a shock first game defeat to Malaysia in the qualifying tournament, but prevailed against ODI status teams Nepal and the UAE to qualify, and will relish their return to the big stage. led by 20 year-old skipper Anshuman Rath (pictured below).

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Stats and Milestones

There are plenty of stats and milestones to keep an eye out for as the tournament unfolds:

Pakistan have played 894 ODIs in their history. If the make it all the way, the final will be their 900th ODI!

Afghanistan have played 170 matches with full international status, winning 99 of them – so they need one more to bring up their century.

Upul Tharanga (Sri Lanka)  – Opener Tharanga has scored 6.873 ODI runs, needing 127 in the tournament to bring up 7,000.

Rohit Sharma (India) – Stand-in Indian skipper Rohit is also bearing down on the 7,000 mark, having notched up 6,748 in ODIs in his career to date. A mere 252 will get him across the line.

Mushiqur Rahim (Bangladesh) – The Tigers’ keeper is in line for milestones with both bat and gloves. With the willow he needs 172 runs to notch up 5,000 in ODIs, while he will be looking for 7 dismissals behind the stumps to reach 200 in the 50-over format for his country.

Lasith Malinga (Sri Lanka) – having been recalled for this tournament, Malinga is in sight of two milestones. He is the Asia Cup’s second highest wicket-taker with 28 victims in the tournament’s history. Only fellow Sri Lankan Murali has more on 30, so three wickets will see Lasith take the crown.

Overall he has taken 492 wickets across all formats for Sri Lanka, so needs just more for a massive 500.

Babar Azam (Pakistan) – Pakistan’s top order batsman needs 27 runs to bring up 2,000 in ODIs.

Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh) – Veteran opener Tamim needs 61 runs to bring up 12,000 across all formats, becoming the first Bangladesh batsman to do so.