Bangladesh v Zimbabwe ODI Series Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mushfiqur Rahim (Bangladesh)

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

Elton Chigumubura (Zimbabwe)

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

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

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

 

South Africa v Zimbabwe – Twenty20 International Series Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamilton Masakadza (Zimbabwe)

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

JP Duminy (South Africa)

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

Imran Tahir (South Afrca)

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

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!

2018 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier

The Road to Lord’s in 2019 swings through southern Africa this week, when the 2018 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier tournament gets underway in Zimbabwe on Sunday morning. Ten countries, four Test nations and six Associates, will do battle for the right to participate in the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales.

For many cricket fans, the tournament is a bittersweet one.  A festival of cricket such as this should fill the heart with joy, being that a bounty of 50-over cricket is coming our way over the next three weeks. Yet, it is tainted by controversy, and not a little sadness, from the outset due to the machinations of the sport’s “governing” body, the ICC.

Whilst every other sport in the world is looking to expand and develop interest in more markets, the ICC have infamously decided to head in the opposite direction, driven by greed and TV ratings rather than any genuine love of the sport. Instead of expanding the game’s showcase global event to include more Associate nations, the ICC has decided to all but deny them entry to it at all.

The 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup has been slashed to feature just ten teams, down from 14 in the 2011 & 2015 tournaments, and 16 in the 2007 edition. Eight teams have already been guaranteed a place in England next year, leaving the four lowest ranked Full Members and the Associates to scrap for just two remaining qualifying berths. So, for the first time at least two Full Members will not be participating in the World Cup, and it is entirely feasible that no Associate nation will make it all.

That is a crying shame, for the Associates have long been starved of quality opposition against the stronger nations, and the CWC has for many years been the one event where they were afforded that opportunity. That it is taken from them at a time when Associate level cricket is going from strength to strength makes the decision all the more baffling and shameful.

The ICC has granted the two leading Associates of recent years, Ireland and Afghanistan, Full Member status this year, the game is hugely popular in Nepal, whilst Scotland and the Netherlands to name just two have been putting some solid results together on the field and making significant strides to develop infrastructure off it. The time was ripe to really drive growth in these countries, yet all of them could well be looking on from the outside come next year while the bigger teams play a ludicrous 48 games between them over six weeks!

The ICC has also baffling decided not to grant ODI status to two of the teams participating in this month’s tournament, Nepal and the Netherlands, so games featuring those two nations will carry less weight statistically for the teams and their players. Why not simply grant the same ODI status to all games in the tournament, what harm would have ensued? Couple with the again strange decision to not televise or even stream the vast majority of the games, and you start to get the distinct impression that the ICC would prefer that the whole thing wasn’t happening at all!

Ignoring all of that (and I’ll leave my ranting there!) the tournament promises to be an exciting one, with every game counting, some big names of the sport appearing, and the small matter of the ultimate prizes of ICC Cricket World Cup qualification and ODI status at the end.

The format of the tournament is short and sweet compared to the main event it precedes, taking place over just three weeks with as many as four games taking place simultaneously on some days.

The ten teams are divided into two groups of five, each playing the other teams in their group once. The top three sides from each group qualify for the second stage, known as the Super Six. Here, teams’ results against their fellow qualifiers from their group are carried forward from the first round, and the teams play the qualifiers from the other group once each. At the end of this second group, the top two sides qualify for the final and, more importantly, for the 2019 World Cup.

The bottom two sides from each of the two initial groups face play-offs against each other to determine who finishes in seventh to tenth places – these games being of vital importance as the ICC is due to grant ODI status to the top three finishing Associates (plus the Netherlands) for the next four years after the tournament finishes.

So each nation is guaranteed a minimum of six games each, rising to seven for those that qualify for the Super Six, and eight for the finalists.

I preview each group below, as well as marking your cards for some upcoming personal milestones that may be reached as the tournament progresses!

Group A

Group A matches are to be played in the capital Harare, at the Harare Sports Club and the Old Hararians club.

 

West Indies

The Windies arrive at the tournament as one of the joint favourites, being as they are a Full member and with the best pedigree of all ten participating nations. That a twice-World Cup winning side (and current T20 world champion) finds itself needing to qualify at all is a result of some terrible ODI form in the last few years and an impasse with key players that has seen some of the Caribbean’s best cricketers overlooked or self-exiled from selection. They failed to qualify for last year’s Champions Trophy in England, and will be desperate not to miss out in the same country again next year.

They are buoyed for this tournament by the return of several big names to the fold, including self-styled “Universe Boss” Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and quick bowler Kemar Roach.

Some personal milestones to look out for the Windies:

Kemar Roach – Fast bowler Roach needs just one wicket to bring up 100 in ODIs

Jason Holder – the skipper needs nine more wickets to bring up his century in the format.

Marlon Samuels – if the West indies progress all the way to the final, and Samuels plays all eight games along the way, he will move on to 200 ODI appearances.

Ireland

As a then Associate nation, Ireland qualified for the last three World Cups going back to 2007, famously inflicting some of the biggest upsets the tournament has ever seen in the process – beating Pakistan in 2007 and England in 2011. Now a newly-installed Full Member, and with a first Test match taking place in May, the men in green will be highly driven to keep their fine record going and qualify for the big show in neighbouring England.

Recent results have not been as strong, and with an ageing (although highly experienced) squad, one senses qualification may be a battle, but they certainly will not give up on that coveted spot without a fight.

A few key personal marks to watch out for:

Kevin O’Brien – the hero of that famous win against England in 2011 needs just 88 runs to bring up 3,000 in ODIS for Ireland

Niall O’Brien – Kevin’s brother Niall will notch up 100 appearances in ODIs if Ireland qualify for the Super Six, he plays in all games, and Nepal don’t qualify for the Super Six from Group B (because Netherlands and Nepal don’t have ODI status.)

The Netherlands

By virtue of winning the World Cricket League Championship in 2017, the Netherlands have been granted ODI status, commencing after this tournament, and will also participate in the inaugural ICC ODI league alongside the 12 Full members when it kicks off in 2020, guaranteeing them regular games against higher ranked sides.

So exciting times lie ahead for the Dutch, regardless of what happens in Zimbabwe, but nonetheless they will be keen to qualify for the World Cup for the fifth time and first since 2011.

Their squad has been bolstered by the return of several plays playing top-class cricket overseas such as captain Peter Borren, Essex’s County Championship winning captain Ryan ten Doeschate and Roloef van der Merwe.

Papua New Guinea

The Barramundis will be looking to qualify for their first major tournament. A more realistic target might be to hold on to their ODI status by finishing as one of the top 3 associate nations. Form against fellow associates has not been strong of late finishing fourth in the WCL in 2017, being on the wrong side of a bilateral series defeat to Scotland, as well as losing both warm ups in Zimbabwe over the last week, so they will look to improve in the next three weeks.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE secured their spot in the Qualifier by winning the recent WCL Division 2 tournament in Namibia, beating fellow qualifier Nepal in the final. Their main aim in this tournament will be to keep hold of their current ODI status for another four years.

One personal milestone that may be realised comes in the form of Shaiman Anwar, who needs 182 runs to become the first UAE player to notch up 1,000 ODI runs.

Group B

Group B matches take place at in Zimbabwe’s second city, Bulawayo at the Queens Sports Club and the Bulawayo Athletic Club.

Zimbabwe

Being a Full member and with the benefit of home advantage, the Zimbabweans will be one of the teams favoured by some to take a coveted qualifying spot for England. Graeme Cremer’s men have had a mixed time of late – winning a bilateral series in Sri Lanka in 2017 but losing against Afghanistan and failing to make it to the final of the Bangladesh tri-series also featuring Sri Lanka.

Their ranks have been bolstered this year by the return from Kolpak stints in England of star keeper-batsman Brendan Taylor and quick bowler Kyle Jarvis, and they will hope that experience and the improved form of Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza will be enough to get them to the final.

A few personal marks that are in play in the tournament:

Sean Williams – recalled to the squad for the tournament, batting all rounder Williams needs just 53 runs to bring up 3,000 in ODIs

Craig Ervine – batsman Ervine needs just nine runs to notch up 2,000.

Hamilton Masakadza – the big opener needs just three ODI appearances to move from sixth place in his country’s appearance list to fourth, passing Alistair Campbell and coach Heath Streak in the process

Afghanistan

It is a sign of their remarkable progress over recent years that Afghanistan are likely favourites for the tournament, having also attained Full Member status in 2017 and looking forward to a maiden Test against India in June.

They have had mixed form in fairness, winning an ODI series against Zimbabwe and drawing in the West Indies in the last 12 months, alongside a series defeat to Ireland in the UAE in late 2017. But they are buoyed by the presence of a phalanx of young and hugely impressive spin bowlers that are more than a match for anyone on their day, especially in Zimbabwe’s likely spin-friendly conditions.

Keep a special eye on the mercurial Rashid Khan

Afghanistan’s vice-captain will, at just 19 years of age, likely become the youngest captain in international cricket history when he deputises for usual skipper Ashgar Stanizkai (out with appendicitis) in the opener against Scotland. Nothing should surprise anyone from Khan, who sits proudly atop the ICC’s ODI and T20I bowler rankings and is courted by franchises the world over, such has been his meteoric rise over the last two years.

Khan also needs just 14 wickets to bring up 100 in ODIs – few would bet against him getting them.

Mohammad Nabi and Dawlat Zadran – fellow bowlers Nabi and Dawlat need 5 and 10 wickets respectively to bring up their 100s too.

Scotland

In the last 12 months, Scotland notched up a bilateral ODI victory over a Full member for the first time, beating Group B rival Zimbabwe in Edinburgh in June 2017. That result and coming second in the WCL to the Netherlands will fill them with confidence that they can at least qualify for the Super Six stage of this tournament – but having appeared in three of the last five ICC world cups, they will be hoping for more.

Kyle Coetzer – already his country’s highest ever ODI-scoring batsman, skipper Coetzer will be looking to add the 277 runs he needs to bring up 2000 for Scotland in ODIs.

Hong Kong

Deprived of top players not available for this tournament, such as JJ Atkinson and Mark Chapman, the latter having opted to now play for New Zealand, Hong Kong’s chief aim will be to emerge with their ODI status intact so they can continue to progress at the highest associate level.

Nepal

One of the fastest upcoming nations in Associate cricket, Nepal secured their berth at this qualifier by finishing second in the WCL Division 2 tournament in Namibia earlier this year.  With huge support at home in the Himalayan nation, obtaining ODI status will be their main goal from this tournament, and with superstar Sandeep Lamichhane, recently awarded an IPL contract, in their ranks few would bet against them causing an upset or two.

Scotland v Zimbabwe – ODI Series Review

The biggest story to come from the recently completed One Day International series between Scotland and Zimbabwe was undoubtedly Scotland’s historic win in the first game – the first time they have beaten one of cricket’s Full Member nations in an official ODI.

Coming on the back of a recent hammering of a full-strength Sri Lanka in Kent in an unofficial ODI in May, the result represents a significant milestone for Scottish cricket, and points to a bright future for Kyle Coetzer’s men.

Scotland then lost the second game in the series heavily – as they had also done against Sri Lanka – with Graeme Cremer’s Zimbabweans bouncing back extremely well to level the series 1-1, and save some pride.

We previewed the series here – so let’s now take a look at some notable statistical milestones achieved:

Kyle Coetzer

Scotland’s captain is in tremendous form and racked up his fourth ODI century with his match-winning 109 in the first game. He scored 170 runs in the series overall – further extending his lead as Scotland’s highest ODI run scorer.

Con de Lange

Spinner de Lange took a mightily impressive 5 for 60 for the Scots in the opening game, destroying any chance Zimbabwe had of reaching their Duckworth Lewis reduced target. These are his best bowling figures for his country, and he becomes just the fifth Scottish bowler to take a five-for in an ODI.

Matt Cross

Scottish keeper-batsman Cross snaffled three catches in the series behind the stumps, taking him to a career tally of 50.

Graeme Cremer

Zimbabwe’s captain rallied his troops brilliantly for the second game, with his 5-for-29 leading his side to a series-equaling victory.

This was Cremer’s third five-for in ODIs for his country – he now has more Michelles than any other Zimbabwean bowler.

His six wickets in the series also took him to a career tally of 90. This has seen him move up two places in the all time wicket-takers list for his country, surpassing both Chris Mpofu’s 85 in seventh, and Guy Whittal’s 88 in sixth place. A pretty good day at the office all round for Mr Cremer!

Malcolm Waller

Waller’s belligerent 92 in the first game had the Scots quaking in their boots as he looked to lead an unlikely chase. He didn’t quite take the Zimbabweans to the win, but he did move past a career milestone of 1000 runs in the process, now sitting on 1056.

Scotland v Zimbabwe – ODI Series June 2017

The joy of following international cricket for me is not limited to the glare of publicity, TV & radio coverage, and endless column inches that are lavished on countless matches between the leading ICC full members. I love watching the associates do battle too and, always a fan of the underdog, where there is a chance for an associate to give a full member a bloody nose or two, my interest piques even more!

This week is one such chance as Scotland take on Zimbabwe in a two-game ODI series at The Grange in Edinburgh, with matches scheduled for both Thursday 15th June and Saturday 17th June. It is a rare bilateral series for the Scots against a Test-playing nation, and they’ll be looking to cause something of an upset.

Scotland enter the series with their form very much mixed. Just under a month ago they stunned a full-strength Sri Lanka by hammering them by seven wickets in a practice match at Beckenham in Kent. Unfortunately for the Scots, the match did not carry official ODI status as the ground was not deemed up to ICC standards, but that doesn’t take away from the magnitude of the achievement.

Sadly, they followed up that win with a nine-wicket loss to the Lankans in the second game of the series, and earlier this week suffered a shock home defeat to Namibia – a team that doesn’t currently have ODI status. Can they recapture the form of that first game in Kent? If they can, then Zimbabwe have every reason to be nervous.

For their part, the Africans have not played an ODI since February, when they played another associate nation, Afghanistan, in a five game series in Harare, losing 4-1. They are using this series as a warm up to their tour of Sri Lanka later in the year, and will definitely be keen to get back to winning ways.

So, much to play for, but also keep a look out for the following personal milestones that players from both sides will be aiming for:

Scotland

Preston Mommsen

The former captain recently came out of international retirement and was back in the team that lost to Namibia earlier this week. He currently has 1101 ODI runs for the Scots, enough to hold down third place in the all-time scorers’ list for his country. He’ll be looking for 131 more to surpass former England/Scotland dual international Gavin Hamilton in second spot. The man who replaced Mommsen as captain, Kyle Coetzer, is in first place.

Josh Davey

Somerset spinner Davey is only available for the second game in the series, but he’ll be aiming for 4 wickets in that game to take him to 50 in the 50-over format.

Matt Cross

Keeper and opening batsman (and MCC Young Cricketer) Matt Cross has taken 47 catches in ODIs for Scotland, so just three more will notch up a half-century of grabs.

 

Zimbabwe

Chris Mpofu

Quick bowler Mpofu currently has 85 ODI wickets in his 76 appearances for Zimbabwe, a tally which sees him sit in seventh place in his country’s wicket takers list. Three more will see him overtake all-rounder Guy Whittall who took 88 wickets in his 147 games as part of Zimbabwe’s succesfull team of the late 1990s.

Graeme Cremer

Hot on the heels of both Chris and Guy is current skipper, spin bowler Graeme Cremer, who has 84 wickets in ODIs.

Malcolm Waller

Batsman Waller needs 36 runs to bring up 1000 in ODIs