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!

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.

Sri Lanka v South Africa – Second Test Preview

South Africa face Sri Lanka in the second and final Test at Colombo’s Sinhalese Sports Club (“SSC”) ground later today, and so sound was their thrashing in the first game last week in Galle, that “test” seems like something of an understatement when describing the challenge that awaits them.

The Proteas scored only 199 runs across their two innings (less than Sri Lankan opener Dimuth Karunaratne scored by himself) and were annihilated by 278 runs within just two and a half days. Rarely has a number two ranked nation looked so all at sea, torn asunder by the triple Sri Lanka spin attack that took 17 of 20 wickets in a thoroughly one-sided affair.

Not that it ultimately mattered, but Sri Lanka’s own batting in that game, aside from the imperious Karunaratne of course, left much to be desired, so they cannot afford to rest on their laurels. But the islanders will be strong favourites at the SSC, despite their number six ranking in Tests.

They are likely to field an unchanged XI, with Suranga Lakmal continuing to deputise for suspended captain Dinesh Chandimal. The South Africans will need to decide whether to continue with Vernon Philander, who bowled only eleven overs in Galle, or strengthen the batting by bringing in Theunis De Bruyn.

The game in Colombo will be the 27th Test between the two sides, with South Africa leading fourteen to six in wins. In Sri Lanka however, the islanders’ record is much better, having won five of the thirteen Tests played to South Africa’s three. Their record at the SSC is even stronger – Sri Lanka have only lost once in five games against their African foes. The last time the two sides played at this ground was in 2014, with the game ending in a draw.

Aside from Sri Lanka looking to close out a series win, there are number of very significant personal milestones in reach for players of both sides:

Dale Steyn (South Africa)

The Proteas’ demon quick bowler needs just one wicket to surpass Shaun Pollock as his country’s all time leading Test wicket-taker. The pair are currently tied with 421 scalps each.

That is enough for joint tenth place in the world all time list, so should Steyn move past his countryman, he will also dislodge him from that top ten!

Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)

The ageless spinner Herath is one spot ahead of Steyn and Pollock in that wicket-takers list with 423 victims to his name. Richard Hadlee’s 431 is next in Rangana’s sights, eight wickets away. With a spin friendly wicket, and Herath’s record of having notched up nine 10-wicket hauls in his career, it’s a distinct possibility. Moving past Kapil Dev’s 434 into seventh place is not entirely beyond plausibility either!

If he does notch up 10 wickets, he will join Shane Warne in second place all time with ten such hauls. Only his countryman Murali has more – and who knows how many more wickets Herath may have ended up if he hadn’t had to play second-fiddle to him for the early part of his career!

Hashim Amla (South Africa)

Sitting on 8,997 runs, South Africa’s veteran batsman needs just three more runs to become just the third Protea after Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith to notch up 9,000.

Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka)

Former skipper Mathews  needs just eight runs to bring up 5.000 in Tests and become just the ninth Sri Lankan to the mark.

 

 

 

First Test Matches: Part Two – India to Bangladesh

With Ireland facing Pakistan this week in their inaugural Test since obtaining Full Member status last year, I am taking a look back the first Tests of the previous ten nations to grace the longest format of our beloved game.

In Part One, I talk about Test nations #1 through #5 – from the first ever Test match between Australia and England,  through to the maiden appearances of South Africa, West Indies and New Zealand.

No we pick up the narrative with…

Test team #6 – India.

First match vs England, Lord’s, London – 25th June 1932

After the 39-year gap between South Africa’s first Test and West Indies becoming the fourth Test team, teams five and six came along like the proverbial London buses, relatively speaking.  Of the three teams granted membership of the Imperial Cricket Conference in 1926, West Indies made their debut in 1928, then New Zealand in 1930, with India finally joining the Test party in 1932.

Cricket had been played on the Subcontinent for many decades by this point, a by-product of course of British Empire. Many parties of English cricketers of different shapes and sizes had visited British India, and an Indian representative team had previously toured England in 1912, but it did not play against England, only First Class fixtures against County sides.

It wasn’t until a team, given the title “All-India” and captained by the  princely Maharaja of Porbandar (aka Natwarsinhji Bhavsinhji) visited England from April to September 1932 that India finally got the chance to play Test cricket.

Above: The “All-India” touring party of 1932.

It’s easy to forget now in the days of very limited warm-ups and multi-formats how long cricket tours were in days gone by. The Maharaja’s men played 39 games on this tour, including an astonishing 25 First Class fixtures where they met each County at least once, as well as Oxford and Cambridge Universities and Scotland.

Whilst the Maharaja was the nominal captain of the side, he very rarely appeared on the teamsheet. ESPN Cricinfo’s biography of him describes him as “A keen cricketer, he was handicapped by being almost useless” but at least he had the good sense to realise this, and did not select himself to play in many games, including the one Test.

Above: Natwarsinhji Bhavsinhji, the Maharaj of Porbandar

That Test comenced on 25th June at Lord’s and India’s tour captain stood aside for the game in favour of CK Nayudu. England were captained by Douglas Jardine just six months away from his date with destiny in the fateful Bodyline series in Australia.

India caused a bit of a sensation on the first morning dismissing both England’s Yorkshire opening batsmen  cheaply -the great Herbert Sutcliffe and Percy Holmes. Both were bowled by Mohammad Nissar, who would end up with India’s first five-wicket haul. When Frank Woolley was run-out shortly thereafter, an astonished Lord’s crowd saw the hosts reeling at 19-3. It wasn’t to last –  from then on, skipper Jardine played a captain’s role  and took control of the match – top scoring for England in both innings and eventually leading his side to a  comfortable 158 run win.

Nayudu’s batting exploits over the entire tour led him to become one of Wisden’s five cricketers of the year in the 1933 edition of the almanack. He was not however the first Indian to be bestowed with that great honour. Three of his compatriots, who all played for England at one stage, had preceded him – Ranjitsinhji  in 1897, Duleepsinhji in 1930 and the Nawab of Pataudi in 1932.

India would have to wait until their 25th attempt, 20 years later in 1952, to win their first Test match. That victory came against England at what was then called the Madras Cricket Club, and is now the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.

Test team #7 – Pakistan.

First match vs India, New Delhi, India – 16 October 1952

The Indian Independence Act, passed by Britain’s Westminster Parliament in 1947, provided that from “the fifteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, two independent dominions shall be set up in India, to be known respectively as India and Pakistan”

And so it was that the ground was laid for Pakistan to become our seventh Test nation. India had already made their debut as we have just seen, but now there was an entirely new nation on the map.

Cricket was already well established in Pakistan as a result of it being part of the British Indian Empire. Following the declaration of indpendence, for the rest of the 1947/48 season matches were played on a rather ad-hoc basis, until the formation of the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP) on 1 May 1949 regulated control of cricket in the new territory. The forerunner to today’s PCB, the BCCP was accepted as a member of the ICC in July 1952, paving the way for Test cricket.

Pakistan’s first tour as a Test nation was arranged hastily after ICC membership being conferred, and its first Test took place at New Delhi’s Ferez Shah Kolta stadium, against India, starting on the 16th October 1952.

Thus Pakistan became the first country (aside from England itself) to not make its international debut against England. Pakistan was also (again save for England) the first to make its Test debut as a fully fledged independent state.

(Note: Interestingly, New Zealand had been granted autonomous status following the Balfour declaration in 1928 which declared the Dominions of Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to be equal members within the British Empire. However, this wasn’t given legal effect until an Act of Parliament was passed in Britain in 1931, after NZ’s Test debut in 1930, meaning the Kiwis miss out on this honour on a legal technicality!)

Pakistan faced a strong Indian side featuring greats Vinoo Mankad, Vijay Hazare and Vijay Manjrekar. In the first innings, India’s Hemu Adhikari and Ghulam Ahmed notched up a 10th wicket stand of 109, which at the time became the fourth highest last-wicket partnership in Test history and carried India to a total of 372.

In reply, Pakistan scored 150 and were asked to follow-on. A second innings of 152 led to a defeat by an innings and 70 runs. Pakistan’s chief nemesis was Vinoo Mankad, who took career-best innings figures of 8/52 in the first innings, and career-best match figures of 13/131 in the Test overall.

Pakistan scored only one fifty across the two innings, by none other than their first superstar, Hanif Mohammad, who would go on to play in 55 Tests.

Above: Hanif Mohammad, first superstar of Pakistan cricket.

Pakistan did not lick their wounds for long however. They levelled the two test series 1-1 by winning the second test by an innings just  one week later in Lucknow.

Test team #8– Sri Lanka

First match vs England, Colombo, Sri Lanka – 17 February 1982

By the time the next Test team was minted, the landscape for international cricket had changed considerably. The One-Day International had been unveiled in 1971, and the ICC had held two World Cups in England based on the new shorter format. This gave the opportunity for non-Test playing emerging nations to play recognised international fixtures before being granted Test status.

The first such team to follow this path were Sri Lanka. The islanders had been granted ICC full status in 1981, by which time they had already played six official ODIs – three each in the World Cups of 1975 and 1979. They were to play two more against England in the week leading up to their first Test against the same opponents in February 1982.

The England side that travelled to Sri Lanka for this historic tour was a strong one, containing players such as Ian Botham, Graham Gooch, David Gower, Bob Willis and Derek Underwood. Sri Lanka stunned the visitors by winning the second ODI thanks to an innings of 86 not-out by Sidath Wettimuny and some crazy running by England who suffered four run-outs in their chase. The ODI series was tied 1-1, and the whole country of Sri Lanka went berserk with excitement.

The historic Test was played at Colombo’s P Sara Oval commencing on the 17 February 1982. Riding the crest of their ODI wave Ranjan Madugalle and Sri Lanka legend Arjuna Ranatunga both scored fifties in Sri Lanka’s first innings, before being undone by Underwood, who would take 5 wickets. A David Gower 89 and 45 from the skipper Keith Fletcher then gave England a slender five run first innings lead. Despite a fifty by Roy Dias in the second dig, Sri Lanka collapsed from 140-2 to 175 all out, John Emburey taking six wickets, and leaving England a straightforward chase. England eventually ran out winners by seven wickets.

Above: Arjuna Ranatunga in action in the first Test versus England

Sri Lanka’s first Test victory would come in 1985 in their 14th Test, when they defeated neighbours India at the same venue as their first Test, the P Sara Oval.

Test team #9 -Zimbabwe

First match vs India, Harare, Zimbabwe -18 October 1992

Before Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980, it had competed as Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe-Rhodesia) in South Africa’s domestic First Class cricket competition, the Currie Cup. After independence, the now national side was first elected as an Associate member of the ICC in 1981, and following its participation in three world cups, obtained Full member status in 1992.

Like Sri Lanka before it, our ninth Test nation had therefore already played a number of official ODIs before making its Test bow.

Zimbabwe’s First test was held at the Harare Sports Club starting on the 18 October 1992. Like Pakistan before them, Zimbabwe’s first Test opponent would not be England, but instead an Indian side featuring the legendary Kapil Dev and a young Sachin Tendulkar playing his 17th test match at the still tender age of 19.

That first match ended in a draw, and is notable for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Zimbabwe’s first innings total of 456 remains the highest by any Test nation on debut. Zimbabwe also became the first debutant nation since Australia 115 years earlier to avoid defeat in their maiden Test.

Zimbabwe’s skipper David Houghton scored a century in the first innings, becoming only the second man after Charles Bannerman to do so in his nation’s first Test.

Most intriguingly of all however, Zimbabwe’s ranks included one player who was not making his test debut. Egypt-born of Greek heritage, spinner Yiannis Athanasios “John” Traicos had played three tests for South Africa in 1969/70 before they were were banished from international sport due to the Apartheid regime. Most assumed that would be it for his international cricket career, but Traicos returned a numerically wonderful 22 years and 222 days later to play for Zimbabwe in their inaugural Test, at age 45.

Above: John Traicos

He proved there was still life left in the old dog too – taking a five-for in India’s only innings, including snaring Tendulkar caught-and-bowled for a duck! Traicos is the only man to play for a team in their first Test that was not himself making his individual Test debut – although Boyd Rankin may emulate him for Ireland later this week if selected, having already played one Test for England.

After drawing their first, Zimbabwe would go on to draw six of their first ten Tests. Their first win came at the 11th attempt, against Pakistan in 1995.

Test team #10 -Bangladesh

First match vs India, Dhaka, Bangladesh – 10 November 2000.

Before Ireland, the last team to join the exclusive Test club was Bangladesh.

Following the former East Pakistan obtaining independence from Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh became associate members of the ICC in 1977. The new nation made its ODI debut in 1986, eventually playing fully 41 ODIs before making their Test debut as a Full Member in November 2000.

That match, against India, was played at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka. Interestingly, this ground also hosted the first home Test for Pakistan in 1955 before Bangladeshi independence in 1971. Thus it has the unique status of having played host to two country’s maiden home Tests.

Also, alongside earthquake-ravaged Lancaster Park in Christchurch, New Zealand,  it is the only venue to host an inaugural Test match that is not still currently in use for cricket today – now being exclusively used for football while cricket is played at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Mirpur.

Three Indians made their debut in the first Test, including Zaheer Khan, and the side was captained for the first time by Sourav Ganguly.

Bangaldesh got off to a dream start, amassing 400 in their first innings – the second highest by any side on Test debut behind only Zimbabwe, with Aminul Islam becoming just the third batsman after Bannerman and Houghton to make a century in his team’s maiden Test.

Above: Bangladeshi debut centurion, Aminul Islam.

Sunil Joshi was India’s main threat in that first innings, taking five wickets, before also top-scoring with 92 in India’s reply of 429. Sadly, Bangladaesh could not repeat their heroics of the first innings, collapsing to 91 all out in the second and eventually losing by nine wickets.

Bangladesh had a torrid start to their Test career – losing all but one of their first 27 Tests, with the other drawn. Their first win came in their 35th Test against Zimbabwe at Chittagong in 2005.

Test team #11 – Ireland

First match vs Pakistan, Dublin, Republic of Ireland – 11 May 2018

To be determined…watch this space!

First Test Matches, Part One: Australia to New Zealand

This week, in the Dublin suburb of Malahide, Ireland will join an exclusive club, becoming just the eleventh side to play a full Men’s Test match, having been granted Full Member status by the ICC in June last year. When visitors Pakistan take to the field against William Porterfield’s team, they will welcome the first new Test team since 2000 when Bangladesh made their bow in the longest and most prestigious form of the international game.

Hopes are high that Ireland can cause an upset. They have a settled side packed with players with extensive international experience at ODI and T20I level and will hope that the swinging early season conditions will be unfamiliar to the visitors. If they do prevail, they will join an even more exclusive club of teams that have won their first Test. So far, only one team can claim to have done so.

To mark this historic event, I take at look at how each of the ten previous Test sides fared in their debut Test. In this first of two parts, I cover the maiden appearances at the top level of England, Australia, South Africa, the West Indies and New Zealand. Later, in Part Two, I will check out what happened when Test cricket expanded into the Indian Subcontinent and to Zimbabwe.

Test teams #1 and #2 – Australia and England.

First Test – Melbourne, Victoria – 15 March 1877

It was just over 141 years ago, on the 15 March 1877 in Melbourne, Victoria, that what became known as the first ever Test Match took place. The term “Test Match” didn’t exist at the time, and was only subsequently applied many years later, but this game is now universally accepted as the first official Test.

The venue for the inaugural contest was the venerable Melbourne Cricket Ground, meaning that the MCG – still in use today of course – can lay claim to being the oldest Test ground in the world.

The match was played between two representative sides – a team of professional cricketers, led by James Lilywhite Jr of Sussex, travelled by steamship from England to take on what was called at the time a Combined Australia XI, captained by Dave Gregory.

Australia as an independent nation did not exist in 1877 –  nationhood would come with Federation in 1901 – and the players featuring in Gregory’s squad were drawn from the then separate British colonies of New South Wales and Victoria.

Neither side was at what would today be called full-strength. Lilywhite’s squad did not include any of the amateur players who at that time represented some of England’s finest cricketers, meaning the likes of WG Grace did not grace the MCG for this fixture. For the combined Australians the best bowler in the colonies – the feared speed-demon Fred Spofforth from New South Wales – refused to play in protest at the non-selection for the game of the NSW wicketkeeper Billy Murdoch.

The game itself was a timeless Test eventually played out over four days, with a rest day in the middle, and using four-ball overs. Underarm bowling was still a thing. Australia ran out winners by 45 runs, meaning Australia can lay claim to be the only team in cricket history to win their first Test match.

Above: A scene from cricket’s first Test at the MCG, March 1877.

Aside from its obvious historical significance as the first ever Test match, the game is best remembered for the exploits of Australia’s opening batsman, Charles Bannerman. Born in Woolwich, Kent, England but having moved down under as a child, Bannerman had the honour of scoring the first ever Test run and went on to make 165 in the first innings, before retiring hurt with a split index-finger. Thus, he became cricket’s first Test centurion. His score remains, over 140 years later, as the highest on debut for an Australian.

Furthermore, Bannerman’s 165 represented 67% of all the runs in Australia’s total first innings score of 245 – which again remains the world record for the highest individual contribution to a team Test innings score, some 2,302 completed Tests later. To this day, when a batsman is dominating an innings while his compatriots collapse around him, commentators and fans go on alert or “Bannerman-watch” to see if cricket’s longest standing record can be broken. All have failed so far, a suitable legacy for Test cricket’s first run scorer and centurion!

Above: Charles Bannerman (right) alongside Combined Australia XI captain Dave Gregory

For the record, the first Test wicket was taken by Yorkshire’s Allen Hill, who bowled Australia’s Nat Thomson for 1.

England would not have to wait long for their own first Test win. The MCG match had been scheduled to be a one-off, but it was such a commercial success that a second match was hastily arranged a couple of weeks later at the same venue. This time, Spofforth and Murdoch did play for the Combined Australians, meaning England’s win by 4 wickets was all -the-more impressive.

Test team #3 – South Africa.

First Test vs England at Port Elizabeth, 12 March 1889

For the next twelve years or so, Test cricket was played exclusively between England and Australia. It was not until March 1889, when the next team, South Africa, made its debut.

Much debate has raged since about whether the inaugural two game series between a visiting England side and the South Africans should be recognised as Tests – given that they were played out between sides of dubious quality and that no South African had ever played First Class cricket at the time – but the matches were indeed subsequently granted Test status in 1897 and are in the record books as such. Who am I to argue?

The representative England side that travelled to the Eastern Cape did include a few players who had previously played in Tests against Australia, including Bobby Abel, Johnny Briggs and George Ulyett – the latter having also played in the first ever Test 12 years earlier. The rest of the squad was made up of a few county players and a number of club cricketers such as the Hon. Charles Coventry who had not even played First Class cricket in England before, and would not do so subsequently.

Like Australia in 1877 before it, South Africa did not exist as an independent nation at the time of its Test bow in 1889, and the side was drawn from the separate colonies of Eastern Province, Western Province, Transvaal and Natal.

Above: The South Africa XI, 1889.

The first Test, billed at the time as “Major Warton’s XI versus a South Africa XI” took place at what is now St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape Province, using 4-ball overs. It was a low-scoring affair, with “England” running out winners by 8 wickets within two days. South Africa’s first Test runs were scored by home-town batsman Bernard Tancred, and their first wicket by fellow Port Elizabethan Gus Kempis, who bowled Ulyett for 4.

The South Africans fared even worse in the second Test in Cape Town, losing by an innings and 202 runs, having scored less than a hundred runs across their two innings. Indeed, it wouldn’t be for another 17 years, in their twelfth Test, that South Africa would finally claim its first Test win, versus the English in Johannesburg.

An interesting aside is that Sir Aubrey Smith, England’s captain in the first Test playing his one and only match for England, went on to moderate fame, but not as a cricketer. He instead became an actor, first on the stage in London’s West End and later in motion pictures in Los Angeles, where he died in 1948. He even starred alongside Elizabeth Taylor in one movie! By strange coincidence, the South Africa XI captain in Port Elizabeth, Owen Dunell, also passed away in a far-flung non-cricketing locale – Lyons in France in his case – although whether he appeared in any French movies is unknown!

Above: Sir Aubrey Smith – England captain in 1889 and Hollywood movie star.

Test team #4 – West Indies.

First Test vs England at Lord’s, London – 23 June 1928

If the gap of twelve years between the first Test and South Africa’s debut seemed long, it was nothing in comparison to the wait for our next Test playing team. It was an astonishing 39 years before the next cab off the rank came along, the West Indies in June 1928. This gap remains a record in between debuts of Test teams.

Several touring representative sides from England had toured the Caribbean since the late 1880s, and likewise teams from the islands had visited England in the early 1900s, but it wasn’t until the West Indies Cricket Board was elected to the ICC (then standing for the Imperial Cricket Conference) in 1926 that the West Indies became eligible to play official Tests. New Zealand and India were also voted in to the ICC in 1926 but would have to wait slightly longer for their Test debuts.

The West Indies represented a collection of British Caribbean islands who were all in 1926 still part of the British Empire. They would later become the separate independent states of Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana, although they continue to join forces alongside several other Caribbean nations and islands for international cricket purposes to this day.

Post acceptance as a member of the ICC, the West Indies were invited to tour England in the summer of 1928 for a three game Test series, with the first match taking place at the home of cricket, Lord’s starting on 23 June 1927.

Unlike the side put up against South Africa in 1889, England’s team was full of players of the highest quality – Wally Hammond and Herbert Sutcliffe to name but two – and it was not really a surprise that the West Indies were outplayed, losing by an innings and 58 runs. Similar innings defeats occurred in the remaining two Tests of the tour at Old Trafford and the Oval.

The first Test was also notable from an England perspective as it saw the debut of a certain Douglas Jardine, playing alongside a man with whom he was to become forever entwined in cricket folklore four years later in the Bodyline series in Australia, Nottinghamshire quick Harold Larwood.

For the West Indies, the series saw the start of the international career of arguably their first superstar, Trinidad’s Learie “Connie” Constantine, who took West Indies first ever Test wicket in England’s first innings and recorded impressive figures of 4/82. Constantine would go on to have a fabulous career as a club professional in England, leading Nelson to eight Lancashire league titles. He became Lord Constantine MBE and a freeman of Nelson.

Above: Lord Learie “Connie” Constantine, MBE.

The West Indies fared much better when they hosted England in the Caribbean just two years later, drawing the first test in Bridgetown, Barbados and winning the third in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana) in 1930, with the chief damage being done by Constantine. The West Indies duly had their first Test win in just their sixth Test.

Test team #5 – New Zealand.

First Test vs England at Christchurch, New Zealand – 10 January 1930

As mentioned above, New Zealand had been accepted as a member of the ICC in 1926, and duly became cricket’s fifth Test nation four years later when an England side visited for a four-game series.

Bizarrely, England also sent a touring side to the West Indies at exactly the same time as the New Zealand tour, meaning that the teams on both tours were severely depleted. For the New Zealand tour, only Frank Woolley with 55 caps had anything like an experienced career, and six England players were making their debuts. It didn’t help New Zealand though, as they were beaten by eight wickets in the first test which was held at  Lancaster Park in that most English of New Zealand cities, Christchurch.

That first Test is perhaps best remembered statistically for Maurice Allom taking four wickets in five balls for England on debut, including a hat-trick, and for Matthew Henderson taking a wicket with his first ball for New Zealand in what would be his only appearance for his country. The New Zealanders also included two players – George Dickinson and Curly Page – who were dual sport internationals who also played for the country’s storied national rugby union team, the All Blacks.

Above: The New Zealand Test team, 1930.

The rest of the Test matches in the series, held in Wellington and Auckland, were drawn. The Kiwis would go on to have the longest and most agonisingly drawn out wait for a first Test win of all nations – astonishingly not winning a match until their 45th Test match in 1956, 26 years after admission to the top table of cricketing nations.

Coming soon in Part Two – the test debuts of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

 

 

Nidahas Twenty20 Tri-Series Trophy Preview

Twenty20 International Tri-Series between Full Members are like the proverbial London buses – you wait ages, and then two come along straight after each other! Hot on the heels of Australia, New Zealand and England making history with the first such series earlier this year, now the subcontinent teams are getting in on the act. The tournament is being held to mark 70 years of Sri Lankan independence.

Sri Lanka plays hosts to the Nidahas Trophy starting on Tuesday 6th March. The series features India and Bangladesh alongside the hosts, with each of the three sides playing each other twice, followed by a final. All games take place at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.

India will be strong favourites, despite resting key members of their first choice team like skipper Virat Kohli and legendary keeper MS Dhoni. They are ranked third in the world in T20 Internationals, hosts Sri Lanka eighth, and Bangladesh down in tenth. India are also in much better form having won their last three T20 International series (against South Africa, Sri Lanka and New Zealand).

For their part, the hosts’ last two series were against their current opponents, having beaten Bangladesh and lost to India in recent times. Bangladesh will also have to overcome their record of never having beaten India in a T20 international.

All three sides are without their first choice T20 captain in this tournament. The hosts’ skipper Angelo Mathews is out injured, as is Bangladesh’s leader, Shakib Al Hasan. The teams will be led instead by Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Chandimal and Mahmudullah respectively.

With a slightly inexperienced squad having been named by India, there are potential international debuts for allrounders Deepak Hooda and Vijay Shankar.

Aside from that, there are a number of potential personal milestones to watch out for as the tournament unfolds:

Rohit Sharma (India)

India’s stand-in captain has 74 Twenty20 Intermational caps, seeing him in eleventh place in the world all-time rankings. If India make it to the final, and Rohit pays every game, he will rocket up to eighth place in that list. New Zealand’s Martin Guptill and the two South Africans JP Duminy and AB de Villiers are the men in sight.

Rohit currently has 1,679 runs to his name in the format, which sees him in tenth place in the world all-time. He could move up four or five places in this list during the tournament. JP Duminy currently sits in fifth place on 1,822 runs, less than 150 ahead. Umar Akmal, David Warner, Mohammad Shahzad and Shoaib Malik are the others potentially in reach.

Thisara Perera (Sri Lanka)

All=rounder Perera is in reach of milestones with both the bat and ball during this tournament. He needs 136 runs to become the fifth Sri Lankan to score 1,000 runs in the format. With the ball, he needs just one wicket to notch up 50.

Mahmudullah (Bangladesh)

Bangladesh’s captain is 79 runs shy of 1,000 Twenty20 International runs. He will become just the third Bangladeshi to do so if he succeeds.

Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh)

Rahim has 48 dimissals (23 catches, 25 stumpings) to his name in the format, enough for 7th place worldwide. Five more in the series would see him move up to fourth past Denesh Ramdin, Umar Akmal and Mohammad Shahzad.

Australia vs England – 1st Ashes Test preview

The waiting game is almost over, and after a seemingly endless build up, attention can finally turn to action on the cricket field, as Australia prepares to host its oldest and most intense rival, England, in a five match Ashes series.

The venue for the first test, staring tomorrow, is the Brisbane Cricket Ground in the suburb of Woolloongabba, Brisbane. Not many people call it that though – it is to all cricket fans simply the Gabba, or to nascent cricket journalists looking for a catchy tag-line, the Gabbatoir, owing to Australia’s enviable record at the ground. And it is this record more than anything that will have England worried as they look to start their defence of the Ashes they won at home in 2015 – Australia have won 63% of the 59 tests they have played at the ground, and England have only ever won there four times in 20 attempts.

England of course have the much better recent record in matches between the two teams – that 2015 win being one of four of the last five Ashes series that England have won, with the hosts only win in that period a 5-0 drubbing in 2013/14 which left England rattled and shorn of many of its established stars. The Australian media, and even the most mild-mannered of their players, are making great talk of repeating this series and opening up scars of old English wounds,  but if the truth be told these are two almost completely different sides, with few player remaining in either side from that encounter. What psychological damage lingers from four years ago remains to be seen, but Australia have set themselves up in their fans’ eyes as strong favourites with a win over the old enemy almost certain. They will hope they can walk the Ashes walk as well as they can talk the talk, otherwise egg will very much be on Antipodean faces.

It’s not doubted that both squads have their fair share of inexperience to them. England have no fewer than five uncapped players in their 17-man squad (Mason Crane, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes, George Garton and Craig Overton) with the bowling looking especially vulnerable to any injury to the first choice starting arsenal. That said, they have three players in the squad with over 100 caps each, and will hope that the mix of seasoned old-hands and fresh-faced exuberance will be one  that can carry them forward.

Australia for their part have sprung a host of last-minute selection surprises – dropping opening batsman Matt Renshaw (depriving him of a chance to play against the country of his birth) in favour of uncapped Cameron Bancroft as well as recalling Shaun Marsh to the middle order for his ninth (yes, ninth…ninth!) attempt at proving he is worthy of a test place. The biggest surprise was probably the recalling of Tim Paine as wicketkeeper after several years in the wilderness. The Australian selectors have copped a bit of flak in the rabid local press, so there is reason to be nervous for the hosts too.

Both sides have also been in indifferent and inconsistent  form in Tests over the last two years. Australia, ranked fifth in the ICC rankings, have won only one of their last five Test series, losing at home to South Africa and away to Sri Lanka and India. England (ranked third) while winning their last two series at home against the West Indies and South Africa, also lost heavily to India. Both sides have recent test defeats to Bangladesh to be proud of.

So, aside from home advantage, there is actually very little to choose between two middle-ranking teams in transition. Both bowling attacks are reasonably settled, both batting line-ups anything but. So all will come down to who steps up when it matters when the bats and ball finally get their chance to do the talking.

Whilst the main prize will of course be first blood in the battle for that famous 3-and-a half inch high urn, and the bragging rights that go with it for the next two years, there are plenty of individual milestones are stats to keep a watch out for:

Alastair Cook (England)

Former skipper Cook, winner of three Ashes series so far, has 11,629 test runs to his name from his 147 tests. The runs total puts him ninth in the all-time world listings, 185 runs behind Sri Lanka’s master-batsman Mahela Jayawardene in eighth place. How he would love to take a huge stride towards that target at the Gabba.

To do so, he would most likely need his 31st test century, and if he were to notch up a tonne in Brisbane he would move into the world top ten for that particular stat too, alongside Steve Waugh, erstwhile captain of the hosts.

Cookie has also scored 14,894 runs in all formats of international cricket, needing just 106 more to break the 15,000 barrier.

Jimmy Anderson (England)

England’s leading all-time wicket-taker has 506 test scalps so far, and 793 in all international formats, so will be on the prowl looking for seven more victims of his vicious swinging balls to bring up 800 wickets.

Stuart Broad (England)

Second only to Jimmy in England’s all time wicket-takers list is Australian fan-favourite Broad with 388 wickets. What price 12 more at the Gabba to become only the 14th bowler in Test history to take 400?

Steven Smith (Australia)

Ranked number one Test batsman in the world, just ahead of his English counterpart Joe Root, captain Smith already has a mightily impressive 20 Test centuries to his name. one more will move him up alongside David Boon and Neil Harvey into Australia’s all time top ten century-maker rankings.

David Warner (Australia)

When he’s not running his mouth off to the press declaring war on England, vice-captain Warner is also quite adept at running between the wickets, and has also notched up 20 Test centuries, so he too will be eyeing a top ten spot.

 

South Africa v Bangladesh – T20I Series Preview

Bangladesh’s tour of South Africa draws to a close with a two-game Twenty20 series starting on Thursday at Bloemfontein’s Mangaung Oval, and concluding at Senwes Oval in Potchesfroom.

Hopes were high, but it has not been a happy tour for Bangladesh so far.  The Tigers lost both tests to the Proteas at the same two stadiums that host these T20Is, as well as being swept 3-0 in the ODI series that followed. You would forgive them for having one eye on being Out of Africa as soon as they can – but as it tramsprires that the final leg of the tour is perhaps their best chance of taking something home with them back to Dhaka.

South Africa are without their multi-format captain Faf du Plessis, out for six weeks with an injury picked up in the final ODI, as well as a number of top bowlers who they chosen to rest. There is no Imran Tahir, no Morne Morkel and no Kagiso Rabada – although the batting is as daunting as ever with Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock joined by a rejuvenated and well-rested AB de Villiers.

Although Bangladesh are without Mustifizur Rahman and Tamim Iqbal, they are bouyed by the presence of the top ranked T20I all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, who will be looking to make an impact as shortest format captain after a quiet ODI series and the two Tests that he chose to sit out.

Bangladesh have never beaten South Africa in four attempts in Twenty20 cricket, and are a lowly tenth in the ICC world rankings in the format, behind Afghanistan. However, South Africa are only ranked seventh themselves.

Plenty to play for for both sides then, and a few players will be looking at personal milestones too:

David Miller (South Africa)

Miller has scored 906 runs in his T20 career, including the games he played for the ICC World XI in the Indpenedence Cup in Pakistan earlier this year. He’ll be confident of becoming the fifth South African to notch up 1000 runs in the shortest format.

JP Duminy (South Africa)

The Proteas stand-in captain for this series is also his country’s leading T20I run-score with 1,683. This puts him in 9th place in the world, and Umar Akmal (1,690), David Warner (1,696) and Shoaib Malik (1,719) are well within his sights as he seeks to march up that particular ladder -although Malik will be playing this week in a three game series against Sri Lanka.

Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh)

 

The Tigers’ captain is also his country’s joint highest T20I appearnace maker with 59 games under his belt, the same as his keeper Mushfiqur Rahim and opening batsman Tamim Iqbal. Tamim is injured for this series so Shakib and Mushfiqur Rahim will move ahead.

Shakib also needs 50 runs to displace Tamim as his country’s top scorer in the format.

He is also Bangladesh’s top wicket taker in T20 internationals – a true allrounder!

Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh)

As well as moving joint top of the Bangladesh appearance list as noted above, the Tigers’ keeper will also be looking for the three dismissals he needs to bring up his half century.

His 24 stumpings to date are enough for third place in the world, and four more will see him move past Afghanistan’s Mohammad Shahzad into second, behind only AB de Villiers.

Pakistan v Sri Lanka – T20I series preview

With the dust now settled on Sri Lanka’s one-sided and often embarrassing 5-0 series defeat to Pakistan in the UAE, attention turns to the shortest form of the game, and a chance of redemption for the islanders.

The two sides play a three game T20I series over the course of four days and two countries – with the first two games to be held this Thursday and Friday at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the capital of Pakstan’s adopted cricketing home. All eyes however are likely to be on the third fixture, slated as it is to be played out in Lahore’s Gaddafi stadium, back home in Pakistan.

International cricket returned to Pakistan earlier this year after a long hiatus, when the ICC sent a representative World XI side to play three Twenty20 games, and granted them full international status. The matches were played without incident, and paved the way for Sri Lanka to become the first full international side to play on Pakistan soil since Zimbabwe in 2015. Prior to Zimbabwe’s visit, Pakistan had not played a single game at home since 2009, following a terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus, so the fact that it is the Sri Lankans that are the visitors for this historic occasion is even more remarkable.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, not everyone in the Sri Lankan camp was comfortable with returning to the scene of such a traumatic event, with white ball captain Upul Tharanga and several top players (as well as head coach Nic Pothas) choosing not to travel to Pakistan. Sri Lanka Cricket then decided that if players boycotted the Lahore fixture, then they would not be considered for the first two games in Abu Dhabi either – which means that their squad for this entire series has a very inexperienced look about it.

Stand in captain Thisara Perera – who was Sri Lanka’s sole representative in the World XI squad in September, and so had no qualms about leading his country back to Lahore – will remarkably become Sri Lanka’s seventh captain across all formats since June this year. Perera has 60 Twenty20 caps to his name, while the rest of his 16-man squad (which includes five potential T20 international debutants) have a total of just 75 between them.

The much changed squad largely renders Sri Lanka’s recent T20 form irrelevant. For what it is worth, they have won their last two series away from home 2-1, against Australia and South Africa. Pakistan for their part are coming off a 2-1 series win in the World XI series and a 3-1 win in the West Indies earlier in the year.

There are a couple of players with personal milestones in their sights to watch out for as the series unfolds this week:

Shoaib Malik (Pakistan)

With 89 caps to his name, the evergreen all-rounder is international cricket’s second highest Twenty20 appearance holder, behind countryman Shahid Afridi’s 98.

His 1,719 runs in the format are enough for sixth place in the world all-time standings. He sits just 60 run behind Afghanistan’s Mohammad Shahzad in fifth, 87 behind New Zealand opener Martin Guptill in fourth, and 134 behind India’s captain fantastic Virat Kohli in third.

Malik will have the chance to play three full games before Guptill and Kohli commence battle in their own T20 series over in India next Wednesday, so will be confident of moving into that world top three, even if it is only temporarily.

Mohammed Hafeez (Pakistan)

Fellow Pakistani all-rounder Hafeez has 78 international caps in the game’s shortest format, enough for 6th place. If he plays all three games, he will move to 81 which will see him overtake India’s MS Dhoni (temporarily) and Sri Lanka’s Tilikaratne Dilshan and move into fourth place on the ladder.

Run wise, his 1,619 career runs see him sit in tenth place in the world. South Africa’s JP Duminy is in ninth on 1,683, but will be captaining South Africa in a series against Bangladesh at the same time as this series is being played, so may remain out of reach. Countryman Umar Akmal’s 1,690 and Australia’s David Warner’s 1,696 however should be catchable.

With ball in hand, Hafeez has taken 46 Twenty20 wickets, so is just four short of his half century. He perhaps only has this series to get there, as his bowling action was reported to the ICC for the third time as being illegal during the one-day series, and hence he must submit to testing after ther series and faces another bowling ban.