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.

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!

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.

 

 

New Zealand v England – Test Series Preview

England swap their coloured clothing for whites this week, when a two-match Test series against New Zealand gets underway. The first match is a day/night affair under lights at Auckland’s Eden Park starting on Thursday, followed by  a second match at Christchurch’s picturesque Hagley Oval the following week.

Trevor Bayliss’ men seem to have been on the road for months, this tour having started with the Ashes way back in November. The early part of this year has been taken up with ODI series wins against both Australia and New Zealand. Those series sandwiched a tri-series campaign against both, where England failed to reach the final. Whether they will be happy to see pink and red balls again is a matter for some conjecture -as for all England’s recent success in One Day cricket, their form in Tests has been as shaky as the ground underfoot in an earthquake-prone Land of the Long White Cloud.

England famously lost the Ashes 4-0, blown away by an Australian pace attack which highlighted significant weaknesses in the batting line up.  If truth be told England’s troubles in Tests go back a lot further than that. Their last series win away from home was over two years ago, and wins over South Africa and West Indies at home over the 2017 summer will do little to paper over those cracks.

England’s squad is bolstered by the return of mercurial all-rounder Ben Stokes, missing from the Ashes due to legal reasons. Stokes will be looking forward to the second test in particular, given that it takes place in the city of his birth, Christchurch. Also added to the squad is uncapped Lancashire captain and middle order batsman Liam Livingtsone, who impressed in the second warm-up game with the red ball in Hamilton earlier this week. Two other potential debutants are in the England ranks, with Surrey keeper Ben Foakes reprising his Ashes drinks-carrying duty, and Somerset spinner Jack Leach a late call-up replacing an injured Mason Crane. Whether any of the three make their debut remains to be seen, but one senses that refreshing the team beaten so comprehensively in Australia might not be such a bad thing.

For their part, the hosts have played very little Test cricket of late, but what they have played has largely gone their way, and they are a force to be reckoned with in home conditions. In fact, the Blackcaps’ last four Test series have been at home over the last 18 months – bringing series wins against Pakistan, Bangladesh and the West Indies against a solitary loss to South Africa.

The Blackcaps welcome back keeper-batsman BJ Watling to the team, having recovered from the injury that kept him out of the West Indies season early in the Kiwi summer. His replacement in that series, Tom Blundell, can count himself slightly unlucky, but his time will likely come. The other selection of note is Todd Astle as the sole spinner in a squad shorn of the all-round talents of an injured Mitchell Santner. Astle is no mug with the bat either, a fact that probably gave him the nod over New Zealand’s white-ball spinner Ish Sodhi,

So an intriguing series for the teams awaits. Individually, there are a number of potential personal milestones for players of both teams to keep a watch out for over the next two weeks.

Ross Taylor (New Zealand)

A mainstay of the Blackcaps’ middle order for over a decade, Ross Taylor is just 72 runs shy of bringing up 15,000 for New Zealand in all formats.

He currently sits third in his country’s all-time Test run scorers list with 6,246 runs to his name. Former skipper Brendon McCullum is in his sights in second, 207 runs ahead on 6,453.

Taylor also has 17 Test centuries, which is the joint highest for his country alongside captain Kane Williamson and all-time Blackcaps legend, the late great Martin Crowe. Both Taylor and Williamson can claim top spot for themselves with a century in this series.

Kane Williamson (New Zealand)

As well as that century mark, skipper Williamson will be hoping to notch up the 121 runs he needs to overtake John Wright’s 5,334 career runs and move into fifth place all time for New Zealand. Crowe’s 5,444 in fourth is also within grasp.

Stuart Broad (England)

Quick bowler Broad currently has 399 Test wickets, and will be reasonably confident of becoming just the 14th player in the history of the game to take 400 Test wickets. Seven wickets in the series will also see him overtake West Indies bowler Curtley Ambrose’s 405 wickets and move into 13th place.

With the willow in hand, Broad has notched up 2,956 runs. 44 more will bring up his 3,000.

If he brings up both marks, he will just the fifth player in history with the 400 wickets / 3,000 runs double -and will join an illustrious group consisting currently of Shane Warne, Kapil Dev, Richard Hadlee and Shaun Pollock.

Moeen Ali (England)

The “beard that’s feared” will likely play his 50th Test for England.

Tim Southee (New Zealand)

Opening bowler Southee has taken 208 wickets in his Blackcaps Test career, enough for fifth place for his country. Eleven in the series will see him overtake Chris Cairns and move into fourth.

New Zealand v West Indies – Test Series preview

Test cricket returns to New Zealand tomorrow with the first of a two-game series between the hosting Blackcaps and a visiting West Indies side. The first match is to be played inside Wellington’s favourite roundabout at the venerable Basin Reserve, arguably one of the most picturesque international cricket grounds in the world.  The second and final test gets underway in Hamilton, city of the future, on the 9th December.

New Zealand have not played much Test cricket of late – tomorrow’s game will only be their sixth this year, and first since March. And they won’t be playing too many more in the foreseeable future either as NZ Cricket clearly focuses more on limited overs fixtures – the home season sees only four test matches over an elongated summer. The Blackcaps lost their last series 1-0 to South Africa, on the back of beating both Pakistan and Bangladesh 2-0 in their previous engagements.

The visiting West Indies side, for their part have had an up and down time of late themselves, albeit one that has started to show glimpses of hope for a young side captained by Jason Holder and coached by Australian Stuart Law. A recent 1-0 series win over Zimbabwe in Bulawayo followed consecutive 2-1 series defeats to England in England and Pakistan at home – but the one test they did win against England at Headingley earlier this year showed that they are more than capable of causing an upset when the stars align for them.

Historically, there has been very little to split the two sides over the years – with both having picked up 13 wins apeice in the 45 Tests previously played. In Kiwi conditions, the home side are more dominant, having won ten matches to the Windies’ seven.

New Zealand have been affected by two late withdrawals from their first-choice squad, with regular keeper BJ Watling out with injury and key man Tim Southee sitting out the first test as he awaits the pitter-patter of tiny fast-bowling feet. Southee’s absence could potential give birth to a new Test career, with uncapped-at-test-level pair Lockie Ferguson and George Worker called up into the squad as cover. There will be at least one new black cap handed out tomorrow,  with replacement keeper Tom Blundell set to take his place behind the stumps.

The youthful West indies squad is stratring to look more settled, but they do have two potential test debutants in their ranks – with Sunil Ambris from St Vincent and the Grenadines and Rayman Reifer from Barbados hoping to get the nod.

An intriguing series in early summer New Zealand conditions awaits! A few interesting statistical milestones to kee a watchful eye on:

Kane Williamson (New Zealand)

The Blackcaps’ skipper, and one of test crickets current “Big Four” middle-order batsmen captains, will be keen to take his bow in a season where Messrs Smith, Root and Kohli have already taken theirs.

He currently has 5.116 test runs to his name, enough for sixth place for his country. A not unfeasible 219 more in this series will see him overtake John Wright in fifth.

Ross Taylor (New Zealand)

Wright is in mortal danger of losing another fifth spot in his country’s record books – with his 82 Test match appearances set to be surpassed in Hamilton by Taylor, who currently has 81.

Trent Boult (New Zealand)

With Southee out, more focus will be on the other half of the Kiwis traditional pace attack. Boult will therefore be confident of moving from his current 190 wickets past the 200 milestone.

Neil Wagner (New Zealand)

Often overshadowed by the Southee-Boult double act, Wagner’s fiery fast bowling has nonetheless already brought him 130 test wickets, enough for joint-ninth for the Blackcaps. One more scalp and he’ll leave Lance Cairns behind in his wake.

Shai Hope (West Indies)

The Windies’ revived hope over recent weeks has come from a new Hope in the ranks – Shai from Barbados. His twin Headingley hundreds were instrumental in their surprise win over England in that match, and in the last four matches he has scored 530 runs at an average of 106. A mere 79 in this series will bring up hos first 1,000 for the West Indies.

Roston Chase (West Indies)

Also hailing from Barbados, all-rounder Chase only needs 34 runs to bring up 1,000 in the longest format himself.

Kemar Roach (West Indies)

And we bring up a trio of Barbadians with rejuvenated fast bowler Roach -who will be aiming for another nine test wickets to bring up 150.

India v New Zealand – October 2017 ODI Series Preview

The seemingly endless calendar of men’s international cricket welcomes back a team that has been largely MIA over the past four months, when India hosts the enigmatic Blackcaps of New Zealand for a three-match ODI series. The first game takes place on Sunday in Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, with further games to be played in Pune and Kanpur in the coming days.

New Zealand have not played in any format since their group-stage exit from the Champions Trophy in England way back in June, and Kane Willamson’s men will be chomping at the bit to get back out on the field of play.

There has been no such hiatus for the hosts – since their defeat by Pakistan in the final of the aforementioned Champions Trophy, they have won ODI series in the West Indies 3-1, in Sri Lanka 5-0, and most recently at home to Australia 4-1.

On paper, India are strong favourites for this series – they are in tremendous form and sit top of the ICC ODI rankings. However, whilst the Kiwis may be a little rusty from their lack of competitive cricket, they are no pushovers, as India found when forced their hosts to a 5th game decider in an ODI series in the subcontinent just last year.

Overall, there have been 98 One Day Internationals between the two sides in their history, with India having won exactly half of them. On home soil, India has won 24 of the 32 games played in this format, and will be looking to continue that dominance this week.

They are a number of personal milestones to look out for as the series unfolds:

MS Dhoni (India)

The ageless wicketkeeper has been responsible for 389 dismissals in ODI cricket, comprising a world record 103 stumpings alongside 286 catches. Eleven more in the series will see him become only the fourth gloveman in the history of ODI cricket to notch up 400 dismissals – and would join Kumar Sangakkara, Mark Boucher and Adam Gilchrist in that exclusive club.

Perhaps slightly more unlikely given his batting position and the short nature of the series, Mahendra Singh needs 242 more runs to bring up 10,000 in the 50-over format. If he does mange this, he will become the twelfth batsman to bring up a five-figure career tally, and the fourth Indian.

Virat Kohli (India)

Still only 28, India’s talismanic captain is an ODI run-machine. Kohli currently sits on 8,767 runs in the format, with 233 more seeing him bring up 9,000.

His 30 centuries in 50-over cricket are enough to see him sit in joint second place in the world, alongside Australia’s Ricky Ponting. One more in this series will see him claim second spot for himself as he continues to get closer to countryman Sachin Tendulkar’s world-record 49. Few would bet against Virat getting there eventually in his career.

Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane (India)

Batsmen Dhawan and Rahane are chasing personal runs milestones of their own in the series, with Dhawan sitting 221 runs shy of notching up 4,000, and Rahane 178 away from 3,000.

Jasprit Bumrah (India)

White ball specialist quick bowler Bumrah has already notched up 46 wickets in his short career to date, and will be keen to bring up his fifty in the first game in Mumbai.

Trent Boult (New Zealand)

The Blackcaps’ pace spearhead has 90 ODI wickets to his name, looking for ten in the series to bring up his century of wickets

Kane Williamson (New Zealand)

The Kiwi skipper currently has 4,605 runs in the fifty over format, a tally which sees him sit in ninth place for his country. Exactly 100 runs will see him move past the late great Martin Crowe’s 4704 into eighth place.  Another four runs on top of that will see him edge past Craig McMillan’s 4707 into seventh too.

 

2017 ICC Women’s World Cup – Preview

For the second time this month, England plays host to a major ICC tournament – with the 11th staging of the Women’s World Cup roaring into life on Saturday, bringing together the top eight teams to do battle for the most important trophy in Women’s ODI cricket.

The month-long tournament of 31 matches will be played out at five county grounds around England, with Bristol, Taunton, Derby and Leicester staging the group stages and semi finals before the final is held at the home of cricket, Lord’s, on Sunday 23rd July. The eight teams will all play each other once in the round-robin group stage. The top four teams then progress to the semi-finals, with the winners of those two games meeting in the final on Sunday 23rd July.

Over the ten previous stagings of the Women’s World Cup, only three teams have won the tournament in its history – Australia claiming six titles, England three and the New Zealanders one, on home soil, in 2000.

Those three teams are the strong favourites again, alongside India, although if the other ICC tournament held in the UK this month has taught us anything it is that favourites can often falter and an outsider can land the prize against all odds!

From an individual player perspective, the following players will be looking to reach personal milestones throughout the tournament:

Ellyse Perry (Australia)

A dual football and cricket international, allrounder and superstar of the women’s game, Perry needs just 101 runs in the tournament to bring up 2000 ODI runs for Australia.

Alex Blackwell (Australia)

The Australian vice-captain has made 133 ODI appearances for her country. If Australia make it all the way to the final as expected, and Blackwell appears in all nine games, she will move ahead of former captain Karen Rolton as Australia’a all-time leading appearance-maker in ODIs.

Tammy Beaumont (England)

England batter Beaumont needs 182 runs to bring up 1000 in the 50-over format for her country.

Natalia Sciver (England)

Another England player looking to notch up 1000 runs for her country is Japan-born all-rounder Sciver, who currently has 837 career ODI runs and will be looking for 163 to make the mark.

Katherine Brunt (England)

The spearhead of England’s attack sits just three wickets behind her teammate Jenny Gunn as the host nation’s all-time leading ODI wicket taker, with 120 wickets to Gunn’s 123. They’ll be spurring each other on to do battle at the top of that tree.

Mithali Raj (India)

The tournament could see history made in the Women’s game, with India’s captain sitting on 5781 ODI runs, 211 behind the current world record run scorer in the 50 over format, England’s former captain Charlotte Edwards. With potentially nine games in which to overhaul Edwards, the chase is very much on.

Another 8 further runs will see Raj become the first woman to pass 6000 One-Day International runs.

Jhulan Goswana (India)

Seam bowler Goswana needs 15 wickets with the ball, and 73 runs with the bat to reach 200 wickets and 1000 runs respectively.

Suzie Bates (New Zealand)

The White Ferns’ captain needs just two more games to notch up 100 for her country.

Amy Satterthwaite (New Zealand)

New Zealand’s vice-captain will have her eye on two personal milestones as the group stage of the Women’s World Cup unfolds.

She currently has 2970 runs in the record books, needing just 30 more to reach 3000. Those runs have come in 95 appearances, so she’ll be celebrating her hundred during her fifth game of the tournament.

Javeira Khan (Pakistan)

Batsman Khan needs just 41 more runs to bring up 2000 in ODIS for Pakistan.

Sana Mir (Pakistan)

Spin bowler and Pakistani captain Sana Mir will reach 100 appearances for her country if she appears in five further games.

Mignon du Preez (South Africa)

The stakes are high for South Africa’s all-time leading run scorer and appearance maker, as she needs just one more game to bring up 100 for the Proteas.

Trisha Chetty (South Africa)

The Proteas’ wicketkeeper-batsman is the world=record holder for catches in women’s ODIs, with 91 grabs to her name. She’ll be looking for nine more to bring up a century.

Coincidentally, Chetty also needs nine appearances to bring up that hundred too – but South Africa will have to make it all the way to the final if she is to achieve that milestone in this tournament.

Shashikala Siriwardene (Sri Lanka)

if all-rounder Siriwardene appears in all seven of Sri Lanka’s round robin stage games, she will notch up 100 appearances for the Islanders.

Chamari Polgampola (Sri Lanka)

Chamari will be looking to hit 31 more runs to move from her current tally of 969 to 1000 for her country.

Stafanie Taylor (West Indies)

One of the likely stars of the Women’s World Cup, the West Indies’ Jamaican captain needs just two games to bring up 100 appearances in ODIs for the Caribbean federation.

She also needs 268 runs to bring up 4000 – which with an average of over 44 is not beyond the realms of possibility by any means.

Deandra Dottin (West Indies)

The Windies’ quick bowler also needs just two more appearance to bring up 100.

 

ICC Champions Trophy – Who will qualify for the semi-finals?

Isn’t cricket wonderful? With all teams now having played two games each, and with one round of games in the group stage to go, all eight can still qualify for the semi-finals of cricket’s second-most prestigious one day international tournament!

Here are the qualification scenarios ahead of the final group games

Group A

The Group A table is currently looking like this:

Team Played Wins Points Net Run Rate
England 2 2 4 1.069
Australia 2 0 2 0.0
Bangladesh 2 0 1 -0.407
New Zealand 2 0 1 -1.74

England have an unassailable lead at the top of the table, regardless of their result against Australia at Edgbaston on Saturday.

The tie-breaker rules take into account number of wins first, and then Net Run Rate (NRR), and with England sitting on two wins and the only team that can catch them on points, Australia, having no wins, England cannot be overhauled. They will therefore play the runners up from Group B in the first semi-final at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff on 14th June.

So all that remains in Group A is to decide which of the other three teams will qualify to join the hosts in the semis. Here’s how it might play out:

If England beat Australia (or there is a no-result in this game due to rain) AND there is a result in the other game between New Zealand and Bangladesh, then the winner of that other game will finish second and will go through to face the winners of Group B at Edgbaston on the 15th June.

(Note: if there is no result between England and Australia, the winner of NZ/Bangladesh and the Australians would both have 3 points, but Australia would have no wins, and would therefore be relegated to third on the tie-breaker)

If England beat Australia, but the NZ/Bangladesh game is a wash-out, all 3 of Australia, Bangladesh and New Zealand would have 2 points. The BlackCaps will finish bottom of the group, as their NRR is the lowest of the three, and it won’t change so they can’t overtake Bangladesh. It will then come down to NRR between Australia and Bangladesh as to who finishes second. If England beat Australia by a greater margin than they beat Bangladesh, then Bangladesh go through. If they win by a lesser margin than against the Tigers, then the Aussies will scrape through.

If Australia beat England, then Australia will qualify second on 4 points, and both NZ and Bangladesh will be eliminated regardless of the result in their game.

If both games are abandoned as no-results, then again Australia will qualify second, and the Tigers and Blackcaps will have to pack their bags.

Group B

The Group B table currently looks like this:

Team Played Wins Points Net Run Rate
India 2 1 2 1.272
South Africa 2 1 2 1.000
Sri Lanka 2 1 2 -0.879
Pakistan 2 1 2 -1.544

 

Conventional wisdom was that this group would be a walk in the park for two of the pre-tournament favourites, India and South Africa. Someone forgot to tell Sri Lanka and Pakistan that though, and after two stunning upset results in the last two days (here) and (here) the group is very much wide open.

Cats are very much amongst the pigeons at this stage, and one of the group’s “big two” is very likely going home early.

With India playing South Africa next, and Pakistan up against Sri Lanka, those two games effectively become quasi-quarterfinals, with the winners progressing to the semi-finals and the losers heading to Heathrow airport.

Of course, results on the field have only been one part of the story of this tournament, with the weather being the winner in two games so far. So what happens if either or both remaining Group B games also get abandoned as no-results? Let’s look at each scenario:

India v South Africa game has a result, but Sri Lanka v Pakistan is washed out

The winner of India v South Africa will go through as group winners on 4 points and face the Group A runner-up at Edgbaston on the 15th of June. The loser is eliminated.

Sri Lanka will have 3 points but qualify as runners-up due to their superior Net-Run-Rate over Pakistan, and will face Group A winner England in the semi-final at Cardiff on the 14th June. Pakistan will be eliminated.

India v South Africa is a no-result, but there is a winner between Sri Lanka and Pakistan

The winner of Sri Lanka v Pakistan will go through as group winners on 4 points and face the runner up of Group A at Edgbaston on the 15th June. Loser is eliminated.

India will qualify as runners-up on 3 points due to their superior Net-Run-Rate over South Africa, and will face Group A winner England in the semi-final at Cardiff on the 14th June. South Africa will be eliminated.

Both games are washed out as no-results

All four teams will end up on 3 points, with one win apiece, and the group positions will therefore be decided on Net-Run-Rate alone.

As per the table above, India will win the group and play the Group B runners up, and South Africa will finish second and face England in Cardiff for a place in the final.

This is the only scenario whereby both India and South Africa can qualify.

ICC Champions Trophy – Review of first round of matches.

The first round of matches in the Champions Trophy over in England are now in the record books, with each of the eight participating teams having played one game each.

The perfect time to have our first look back and see which players have notched up a personal milestone in the tournament so far.

Joe Root (England)

The England Test captain’s 133 not out in the comfortable Group A win against Bangladesh on Thursday was his highest score in 50-over internationals. This was Root’s tenth ODI century, moving him up to joint second place in England’s all time one-day century makers list, alongside current white-ball captain Eoin Morgan. Both are closing in on Marcus Trescothick’s England record of 12.

Ross Taylor (New Zealand)

When Ross took the field in Friday’s rain-ruined Group A match against Trans-Tasman rivals Australia, it was his 188th appearance for the Blackcaps in ODIs, enough to give him a share of eighth place in NZ’s all time appearance list with Scott Styris. He’ll likely claim that spot outright on Tuesday against England.

Kane Williamson (New Zealand)

The Blackcaps’ skipper scored a nice round 100 in the aborted game against Australia, his ninth ODI century, and moved his career total on to 4461 runs – bumping Chris Zinzan Harris out of New Zealand’s all-time top ten list in the process. He now sits just 22 behind Styris in ninth spot.

Josh Hazlewood (Australia)

Hazlewood’s mightily impressive 6 for 52 against New Zealand was his third five-wicket haul in ODIs, becoming only the seventh Australian to bag that many “Michelles”.

Hashim Amla (South Africa)

Hashim Amla’s 103 in his side’s 96-run Group B win against Sri Lanka on Saturday was his 25th ODI tonne for the Proteas, in just his 151st innings.

This century moved him alongside Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakarra in joint fifth place in the world.

2017 ICC Champions Trophy – Group A

The 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, to be played in England and Wales, starts this Thursday with the opening game between hosts England and Bangladesh at The Oval in London.

In this first post I take a look at the possible milestones to be reached by players from the four teams in Group A – Australia, Bangladesh, England and New Zealand.

Each team can play a maximum of five games in this tournament – three in the group stages, a semi-final and the final – so I have considered possible milestones that may be reached in that time-frame, barring a freak run of double centuries or ten-wicket hauls. Anything is possible of course, but I’m trying to be as realistic as possible!

For a preview of Group B, have a look over here.

Australia

The Aussies are perennial winners of ICC 50-over tournaments, and again enter this one as one of the favourites. Currently ranked second in the world in ODIs, they are the only team to have won more than one Champions Trophy outright, lifting the silverware in 2006 and 2009. Watch out for the following as the tournament unfolds:

Steven Smith

If Australia reach the final, and their captain plays in every game, Steve Smith will bring up 100 ODI appearances for the boys in yellow, currently having 95 to his name.

David Warner

One of the possible stars of the tournament needs just 54 runs to bring up 4000 career ODI runs. Barring injury, it’s hard to see this milestone not being added to the record books.

Glenn Maxwell

Mercurial all-rounder, and self-styled “Big Show”, needs 43 runs to clock up 2000 for his country in ODIs.

Mitchell Starc

The Australians’ main strike bowler is 13 wickets shy of matching Jason Gillespie’s 142 for his country, enough to move him up to joint tenth place in the list of Australia’s all-time ODI wicket takers. 14 Starc wickets in the tournament will relegate poor Dizzy to eleventh.

Matthew Wade

Although playing as wicketkeeper gives him something of an unfair advantage over the man he might replace, the Aussie gloveman needs just two catches to move to 105 career catches and match the record of Mike Hussey, who currently holds down tenth spot in all-time ODI catches for his country.

Bangladesh

The Tigers enter the tournament ranked joint sixth in the world and qualify for their first Champions Trophy since 2006. These are the players to keep an eye on stats-wise over the next two weeks:

Mashrafe Mortaza

The Bangladesh ODI captain has currently played 175 ODIs for his country, enough to put him second on the list of all-time highest appearances for the Tigers. He needs just two more games to equal Mohammad Ashruful (177) at the top of the tree, and if he plays in all three groups games he will move clear at the top.

Shakib Al Hasan

The man tipped to replace Mashrafe as captain once he retires at the end of the tournament is currently two games behind his skipper with 173 appearances. He will need the Tigers to get to the semis to equal Ahsraful’s 177, and to the final to surpass him and move into second place outright (assuming Mashrafe plays in all the games Shakib does)

Shakib is also 185 runs shy of reaching 5000 ODI runs for Bangladesh, currently tallying 4815 runs from his 173 appearances.

Imrul Kayes

The opening batsman needs 127 runs to reach 2000 ODI runs for Bangladesh.

Soumya Sarkar

Soumya currently sits on 925 ODI runs, needing just 75 to notch up his first 1000 runs.

Rubel Hossain

The quick bowler needs 9 scalps to bring up a century of wicket for Bangladesh in ODIs, having taken 91 victims in his career to date.

England

The host nation have an unenviable and well-known record of having never won a 50-over ICC tournament, despite making it to no less than five finals, including the last Champions Trophy in 2013 where they lost to India. This time, they are in-form, at home, and enter the tournament as the bookies’ favourites. What can possibly go wrong?! These are the players to monitor:

Eoin Morgan

England’s white-ball captain Morgan is approaching a few milestones in this tournament. The following all relate to his record for England alone, noting that he did make 23 ODI appearances for his native Ireland before switching allegiance to England.

Morgan has made 157 ODI appearances in England colours, needing two more to equal Darren Gough (currently in fifth place in England’s all time appearance list on 159) and four to match Ian Bell’s 161 in fourth place. If England make the final, then Eoin will claim fourth place all for himself, assuming he plays in every game.

Eoin also needs 180 runs to bring up his 5000 for England in ODIs, and currently sits on 10 centuries for England. He needs two more centuries to match Marcus Trescothick’s 12 at the top of England’s rankings.

 

Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali

Two of England’s crucial allrounders both need 3 wickets to tally 50 ODI victims for their country, currently sitting together on 47 wickets.

Chris Woakes

Another all-rounder, Woakes needs 11 wickets to mark 100 for England

New Zealand

The final team in Group A (alphabetically speaking) are New Zealand. The Blackcaps won this trophy (then known as the ICC Knockout Trophy) in Kenya in 2000, and of course dazzled the world on their way to the 2015 World Cup Final before meekly losing in the final against Australia. A strong Group A will be difficult to escape from, but the Blackcaps are capable of beating anyone on their day, so cannot be ruled out completely.

The NZ players with upcoming personal milestones are as follows:

Kane Williamson

The skipper currently has 4362 ODI runs to his name, sitting in eleventh spot for NZ. He needs just 17 runs to match the wonderfully named Chris Zinzan Harris on 4379 and move into the top ten, and 121 runs to equal Scott Styris in ninth place.

Ross Taylor

A long-time key batsman for the Blackcaps, LPRU Taylor needs just two more appearances to overtake Styris’ 188 and move himself into eighth place for NZ.

Tim Southee

The Blackcaps’ quick bowler current has 155 ODI wickets, needing four more to overtake New Zealand’s finest ever fast bowler Sir Richard Hadlee for sixth place in the all time list for their country.

Neil Broom

Recently recalled after a long absence, Broom needs 126 runs to mark up 1000 in the format for New Zealand.

Trent Boult

The fast bowler needs 13 wickets to move to 100 in ODI uniform for the Blackcaps.

Jeetan Patel and Mitchell Santner

Another player to find himself back in the national side after a long absence, Jeetan Patel needs just one more wicket to mark 50 for his country. Fellow slow bowler Mitchell Santner needs seven scalps to bring up the same milestone, currently sitting having 43 to his name.

Luke Ronchi

And last but not least, with 97 grabs already in the record book, keeper-batsman Ronchi needs just three more catches to reach 100 for his second international country, having previously played a handful of ODIs for Australia.