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.

 

 

 

West Indies v Sri Lanka – Test Series Preview

Test cricket returns to the Caribbean this week, with the arrival of Sri Lanka for a intriguing series which pitches two inconsistent but improving sides together.

At the time of going to press, it is somewhat unclear whether this will be a two or three match series. Originally scheduled for three, with the final match slated to be a day/night affair at Bridgetown’s storied Kensington Oval, there has been much speculation that one Test may be shelved or converted into an ODI in a cost cutting measure aimed at helping the cash-strapped Cricket West Indies governing body.

For now, we’ll assume it stays as planned, with the first Test starting on Wednesday June 6th at Trinidad’s Queen’s Park Oval, and followed up by a visit to the Daren Sammy Cricket Stadium in Gros Islet, St Lucia before the pink ball match up in Barbados finishes things off.

Both sides have shown sparks of recovery in the longest format over the last 12 months or so. The hosts have been in the doldrums for many years in Test cricket, riven by player strikes and at best baffling management by the governing body, but in recent times they have won a series in Zimbabwe and won individual tests against both England and Pakistan away from home under the leadership of young all-rounder captain Jason Holder.

The visitors meanwhile have won series in Bangladesh and in the UAE against Pakistan, with a loss to India in between. The Sri Lankans are the higher-ranked side (6th to the Windies 9th) and may well find the slow wickets in the Caribbean to their taste.

The Sri Lankans have had injury worries ahead of the tour, with opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratane and fast bowler Dushmantha Chameera out injured. Their squad contains as many as four uncapped players as a result – bowlers Asitha Fernando, Kasun Rajitha and Jeffrey Vandersay plus batsman Mahela Udawatte.

The hosts meanwhile have recalled Devon Smith after a Test absence of three years,  and may hand a debut to 20yr old Anguillan keeper-batsman Jahmar Hamilton.

From a personal player perspective there are a few milestones to watch out for as the series unfolds:

Kemar Roach (West Indies)

Fast bowler Roach is enjoyinga bit of a renaissance of late, and needs just three wickets to bring up 150 in Tests.

Kraigg Brathwaite (West Indies)

The opening batsman needs just 80 runs to mark 3,000 in Tests.

Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka)

Former captain Mathews currenty has 4,914 career Test runs in his ledger, needing 86 more to reach 5,000. If he can manage 190 runs in the series, he will move past Sri Lankan legend Arjuna Ranatunga into 8th place for his country.

Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)

The ageless spinner Herath’s 415 Test wickets see him in 12th place in the world all-time – having been overhauled by England’s Stuart Broad this week. Broad and Harbajhan Singh share tenth place on 417, with South Africans Shaun Pollock and Dale Steyn in 8th and 9th on 421 and 419 respectively. Rangana will have all in his sights!

 

England v Pakistan – Second Test – quickfire stats preview

England face Pakistan in the second and final Test of the series at Headingley, with Pakistan having won the first Test by a whopping nine wickets.

I previewed the series in detail here, but ahead of the second Test, keep an eye out for these stats and milestones:

Joe Root (England) – needs 85 runs to bring up 6,000 in Tests

Stuart Broad (England) – after a pair in the first Test, Broad still needs 26 runs to bring up 3,000 in Tests, and become the fifth player of all-time to reach that mark alongside taking 400 Test wickets

Alastair Cook (England) – will break Allan Border’s world record by appearing in his 154th consecutive Test match.

Ben Stokes (England) – needs 2 wickets to bring up 100 career Test wickets, although he faces a fitness battle to be included in the XI having had a scan on his hamstring.

England v Pakistan – Test Series Preview

Just one week after making history as Ireland’s first Test opponents at Malahide, Pakistan hop over the Irish Sea to do battle with England. The two Test series begins on Thursday 24th May at Lord’s, concluding at Headingley in Leeds in the first week of June.

Whilst Pakistan were eventually able to prevail against a spirited Irish side in Dublin, England return to the long form of the game after a bruising winter in whites which saw series defeats to both Australia and New Zealand.

England’s batting in particular was shown to be suspect on those tours, and many pundits expected significant changes to the line-up when new Head Selector Ed Smith revealed his first squad earlier this week. Only one change to the batting ranks eventually transpired with Hampshire’s James Vince feeling the axe in place of Jos Buttler, and Mark Stoneman perhaps surprisingly being given another chance to try and cement his place opening the innings alongside Alastair Cook.

The choice of Buttler raised some eyebrows as he has been picked as a specialist batsman (with Jonny Bairstow retaining the gloves) and has played precious little red-ball cricket over the past two seasons. Several other candidates that have been dutifully scoring runs in the County Championship, such as Middlesex’s Nick Gubbins and Worcestershire’s Joe Clarke were overlooked, as was Surrey’s keeper batsman Ben Foakes. Time will tell whether this proves to be an inspired decision.

(Maybe the ECB couldn’t cope with a six-seven-eight of the Stokes, Foakes and Woakes blokes – different strokes for different folks I guess!)

For the bowling ranks, England were dealt a blow on the eve of selection when incumbent spinner Jack Leach broke his thumb in training, but Somerset fans weren’t weeping for long with Leach’s Taunton teammate Dom Bess picked to make his debut as his replacement. The only matter left to be resolved is whether Chris Woakes or Mark Wood takes the final seamer’s spot in the XI alongside Broad and Anderson. With Woakes still in India warming the RCB bench and Wood having chosen country over franchise by returning early to Durham, the latter would appear favourite.

Pakistan are a team in transition. Missing from the team that tied 2-2 with England on their last visit in 2016 are the now-retired legends Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan, whilst inspirational spinner Yasir Shah misses the tour through injury. Two players made their debuts against Ireland last week – allrounder Faheem Ashraf and batsman Imam-ul-Haq, nephew of Inzamam. Both scored fifties in their debut game, with the latter steadying Pakistan nerves on the final day and leading his side to victory. Prior to winning in Ireland, Pakistan’s last Test appearance was back in October 2017 when they lost at their “home” in the UAE to Sri Lanka.

It promises to be an intriguing series as both sides look to build for the future.

A few interesting stats and milestones to watch out for as the series unfolds:

Potential debutants

England confirmed on Wednesday that 20-year old Somerset offspinner Dom Bess will make his debut, becoming England Test Cap number 685.

For Pakistan, there are three uncapped batsman in the Test squad – Fakhar Zaman, Usman Salahuddin and Saad Ali who are waiting in the wings to make their debuts. Fakhar would appear the most likely.

Team, match-up, and venue stats

By contrast to Ireland playing their first Test last week, the games against Pakistan will be England’s 998th and 999th tests!

The two sides have met 81 times in Tests since 1954 – England lead Pakistan 24-20 in wins, with 37 draws.

In England, there have been 51 matches between the hosts and Pakistan,  with England leading 22-11, and 18 draws.

Pakistan have not played against England at Headingley since 2006, but did play (and win) a Test against Australia there in 2010 before settling on the UAE as their temporary home.

Stuart Broad (England)

Now established as England’s second highest wicket-taker in Tests behind teammate Jimmy Anderson, Broad has his sights set on a number of landmarks in this series.

With the bat, he needs just 26 runs to bring up 3,000 career Test runs, and in the process become just the fifth player in the history of the game to hit that milestone as well as take 400 Test wickets. He will join legends of the game Sir Richard Hadlee, Shane Warne, Kapil Dev and Shaun Pollock if he gets there.

Broad’s 116 Test appearances to date put him sixth on the list of England’s all-time appearance makers in Tests. If he plays both games as expected he will leapfrog David Gower in fifth on 117 and join Graham Gooch and Ian Bell in joint fourth on 118. Only Alec Stewart, Anderson and Alastair Cook will have played more for their country.

Finally, Broad’s 410 Test wickets currently see him in 14th place in the history of the game. A successful series could see him rocket into the world top ten all-time however. Twelve scalps will see him overtake:

  • Wasim Akram (Pakistan, 414 wickets, 13th place);
  • Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka, 415, 12th place);
  • Harbhajan Singh (India, 417, 11th place) ;
  • Dale Steyn (South Africa, 419, 10th place); and
  • Shaun Pollock (South Africa, 421, 9th place)

Jimmy Anderson (England)

Jimmy has taken 818 wickets across all international formats for England. He needs 12 more to move past Pollock’s 829 and into sixth place worldwide.

Ben Stokes (England)

Making his first appearance for England in Tests since his well-publicized issues last summer, talismanic all-rounder Stokes needs just five wickets to bring up 100 for England with the red ball.

Jonny Bairstow (England)

Despite Buttler’s return to the squad, YJB has been confirmed as England’s gloveman, and needs just four dismissals to bring up 150 in Tests.

Joe Root (England)

England’s skipper will be looking for 157 runs to notch 6,000 in Tests, becoming the 15th Englishman to the mark.

Azhar Ali (Pakistan)

Opener Azhar Ali struggled in Ireland failing in both innings, so is still looking for 88 runs to take him past Misbah’s 5,222 Test runs and into sixth place all-time for Pakistan.

Ireland v Pakistan – Stats preview

History will be made in a few hour’s time at the Village Ground in Malahide, Dublin, when Ireland’s men’s team make their Test debut against Pakistan.

Above: The Ireland squad ahead of today’s debut Test

Here are a few stats-based snippets and insights on the big game:

– Ireland will become the eleventh men’s Test team, and the second in Europe.

– Aside from England itself, Ireland will be come the first Test nation to make its debut against a team other than England or India. Six sides have debuted against England, and three against India. England debuted against Australia.

– If Ireland beats Pakistan, it will become only the second Test country to win their first Test, after Australia beat England in 1877.

– If Ireland draws or wins, they will become only the third Test country to not lose their debut Test, after Australia in 1877 and Zimbabwe who drew their first Test with India in 1992.

– If Boyd Rankin plays for Ireland, he will become the 15th player to play Tests for two separate nations, having played one Test for England versus Australia in Sydney in January 2014.

– Rankin will become the first ever player to play in all three formats (Test, ODI and T20I) for tow international teams.

– Ireland’s Ed Joyce’s sister Isobel played in the Ireland Women’s side when they made their Test debut, also against Pakistan, in 2000.

– Ireland’s Tim Murtagh, with 712 First Class wickets to his name, will become the player with the most First Class wickets before making his Test debut for any team other than England.

– Malahide will become the 115th ground to host Test cricket

– The Republic of Ireland will become the 22nd country to host Test cricket (counting England and Wales as separate countries)

– Mohammad Amir needs 5 wickets to bring up 100 Test wickets for Pakistan

– Azhar Ali need 94 runs to move past Misbah-Ul-Haq’s 5,222 Test runs and into 6th place all time for Pakistan

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.

 

 

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.

South Africa v Australia Test Series Preview

One of the closest match-ups in recent Test cricket history rejoins battle over the next five weeks, with South Africa hosting Australia for a four-match Test series. The first game takes place at Durban’s Kingsmead ground starting on Thursday 1st March – followed over the next 30 days by matches in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg.

The Proteas are ranked second in the world in Tests, with Australia hot on their heels in third. Added to that, both are coming off series wins over major nations – South Africa winning 2-1 over India, and the Aussies smashing England to smithereens in a 4-0 Ashes thumping. So whilst both sides’ one-day form has been variable of late, they will be high on confidence with a red ball in hand.

Also of note is that whilst there has been a growing worldwide trend over recent times for home teams to dominate in Tests, the opposite seems  to hold true with these particular combatants – the last three series being won by the away side, most recently by South Africa in Australia in 2017. The conditions in both southern hemisphere nations are very similar, with fast bouncy tracks to the fore. So players from both sides will feel comfortable, and an intriguing month awaits.

Both sides have named two potential debutants in their squads for the series – the Australians have named young quick Jhye Richardson alongside perpetual baggy=green-in-waiting Chadd Sayers in their bowling ranks, whilst South Africa find a place for all-rounder Willem Mulder and back up keeper-batsman Heinrich Klaasen in their armoury.

There are plenty of individual milestones to keep an eye on as well as the series unfolds:

Morne Morkel (South Africa)

The in-form tall quick shocked everyone over the weekend by announcing his retirement from all international cricket at age 33 at the end of this series. Known affectionately as The Giraffe, Morkel has notched up 294 wickets in Tests so far, so will be looking for just six more to become only the 5th South African to join the 300-club. Ending his career in the company of Messrs Pollock, Steyn, Ntini and Donald would be a fitting way to sign off for the popular fast bowler.

Hashim Amla (South Africa)

One of South Africa’s all time great batsmen has a host of records  and milestones in sight during a series in which he will turn 35.

Firstly, if he plays in all four games he will join former skipper Graeme Smith on 117 Test appearances for the Proteas, enough for third all-time behind only the legendary Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher.

Secondly, sitting on 8,786, he is 214 runs shy of joining the 9,000 Test runs club, and if he makes it will become the third South African to do so after Kallis and Smith.

And finally, his safe hands will be confident of taking the one more catch at slip he requires to bring up a century in that category.

Nathan Lyon (Australia)

Not far behind Morkel in the career wickets category is man the Aussies like to call the GOAT, spinner Nathan Lyon. His 290 Test wickets are enough for seventh place all-time for Australia, and two more scalps will see him overtake Craig McDermott into sixth.

Ten wickets over the series will see him become only the sixth Australian after Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Dennis Lillee, Mitchell Johnson and Brett Lee to achieve the 300.

Vernon Philander (South Africa)

The burly quick bowler will be looking for just 12 wickets of his own over the series to bring up 200 for his country.

Steve Smith (Australia)

Having scored 6,057 in Tests, 3,431 in ODIs and 431 in T20Is, Australia’s skipper has 9,919 international runs so far. Given his form and Test average of 60-plus, it seems a foregone conclusion that he will achieve 10,000 over the next few weeks!

Shaun and Mitchell Marsh (Australia)

The Marsh brothers each have a batting milestone in sight, with Shaun looking for 79 runs to bring up 2,000 and the younger sibling Mitchell just 6 runs to notch up his first 1,000 for his country.

Dean Elgar (South Africa)

Opener and one-time stand in captain Elgar currently has 2,861 Test runs to his name, so will be confident he can find the 139 he needs for 3,000.

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.