England v South Africa – 3rd Test Preview

The third Test of the four-match Basil D’Olivera Trophy series between England and South Africa takes place from Thursday at The Oval in south London.

The finely poised series is currently tied 1-1, with both sides having notched up a heavy win apiece over their opponents. The hosts cruised to a 211-run win in the first Test at Lords on the back of Joe Root’s 190 in his first innings as captain, and a ten wicket haul from Moeen Ali. South Africa however fought back with a crushing 340-run win over their hosts in the second Test at Trent Bridge.

So all to play for…will Root be able to lift his England team from their malaise in Nottingham, or will Faf du Plessis’s charges pick up where they left off in the midlands and carry their momentum back to London?

Several players on both sides will have their eye on milestones as the game unfolds:

Alastair Cook (England)

Former England captain Cook is currently tied with former Australian captain Allan Border on 11,174 runs, in equal ninth place in the list of highest Test run scorers. If Chef can avoid a pair, he will demote Border into tenth place and claim ninth spot all for himself.

Joe Root (England)

Cook’s replacement as England skipper needs 125 runs in the match to reach 5,000 test match career runs.

Ben Stokes (England)

Durham all-rounder Stokes will be looking for 23 runs in the game to bring up the 2,000 run milestone.

Stuart Broad (England)

Fast bowler Broad will make his 105th appearance for England in Tests, which will give him tenth place outright in England’s all time appearance list – knocking a certain Kevin Pietersen out of the top ten in the process.

Stuart currently has 373 Test wickets to his name, enough for joint 18th on the all time world wicket-taker list, alongside Pakistan quick Waqar Younis. Four wickets in the match will take him past West Indian Malcolm Marshall’s tally of 376, whilst a ten-for will see Broad move into equal second place in England’s all time list, matching Ian Botham’s 383.

Hashim Amla (South Africa)

South Africa’s leading batsman will make his 106th Test match appearance for the Proteas, bringing him alongside the resting AB de Villiers into joint fifth place for his country.

Quinton de Kock (South Africa)

Having taken 88 catches and effected 6 six stumpings behind the wickets, the Proteas keeper-batsman needs just six dismissals in the match to bring up his century of victims.

Vernon Philander (South Africa)

Often mysteriously underrated, burly all-rounder Philander has a current wicket tally of 169. Two more in this game will see him overtake pre-isolation era off-spinner Hugh Tayfield and move into seventh place for his country.


Sri Lanka v India – 1st Test Preview

The Champions Trophy now seems like but a distant memory, with the focus of the mens’ international calendar now very much back on the red ball. An intriguing Test series awaits in Sri Lanka between a home side in transition, and a visiting Indian side high on form and expectation.

The first Test starts in the beautiful fort city of Galle in the south of the island on Wednesday.

The Lions, ranked a lowly 7th in Tests, only narrowly won their last test against a resurgent and mightily impressive Zimbabwe earlier this month, and shared the spoils 1-1 in their previous series at home against Bangladesh in March.

As for India, they are on the back of eight-straight series wins dating back to 2015, and are ranked the No.1 Test side in the ICC rankings.

The first Test of the three match series will be the 39th between the two sides since Sri Lanka were admitted as a Test nation in 1982. India have won 16 matches to Sri Lanka’s 7.

On paper then, it’s a rather one-sided affair, but as the Australians will tell you, Test cricket isn’t played on paper and when the Sri Lankans fire on their home turf, anything is possible. This is backed up by the fact that in Tests played between the two sides on Sri Lankan soil, the islanders lead 7-6 in wins.

There are a few upcoming individual milestones to keep an eye on in this Test also:

Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)

With Angelo Mathews having resigned the Sri Lankan captaincy in all formats following his side’s ODI series loss to Zimbabwe, and with permanent Test replacement Dinesh Chandimal sidelined for this game with pneumonia, Sri Lanka will be captained by the ageless Rangana Herath.

Herath’s 11 wickets in the recent Test against Zimbabwe rocketed him to second place in the ICC Test bowling rankings, and he has firmly established himself in recent years as one of the most popular players in the world.

He currently has 384 Test wickets to his name, which sees him in 15th place in the history books, with his haul against the Zimbabweans moving him up in the all-time list past three legends of the game in Waqar Younis, Malcolm Marshall and Ian Botham. South African pacer Makhaya Ntini is next in the wily spinner’s sights as he marches ever onwards to 400 career wickets. Seven more scalps in this game will see him pass Ntini’s 390 and move into 14th place.

Herath also has eight ten-wicket matches in his locker, enough for equal fourth place on the all-time list, alongside Indian legend Anil Kumble. One more such haul, and who would put it past him, will see him move alongside New Zealand all-rounder Richard Hadlee in third place with nine.

Ravichandran Ashwin (India)

One half of India’s lethal spin duo, Ashwin plays his 50th Test in Galle.

Now an established all-rounder who bats as high as 7 depending on the make-up of the Indian XI, he requires 97 runs to bring up 2000 runs for his country.

With the ball, he has racked up 7 ten-wicket hauls in his 49 games so far, sitting with England’s Sid Barnes just one behind Herath and Kumble in joint sixth place.

Cheteshwar Pujara (India)

With both regular openers out of the starting XI with injury and illness, much of the burden of the batting line-up will fall on the shoulders of Pujara. He currently has 3,798 runs to his name, so 202 more will bring up the career 4,000.

Ravindra Jadeja (India)

The number one-ranked Test bowler in the world needs eight more wickets to bring up 150 for India in the longest format of the game.

Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka)

Shorn of the duty of the captaincy by his resignation last month, Mathews will be looking to get back into form with the bat in this game. He is currently Sri Lanka’s tenth highest run-scorer in their Test history, with 4,536 runs in his ledger. Just ten more runs in this game will see him overtake his new batting coach, Hashan Tilakaratne, and move into ninth place.

Suranga Lakmal (Sri Lanka)

The Lions’ quick bowler has 82 wickets to his name, enough for eighth place in the overall standings for his country. A four-wicket performance in this game will see him overtake fellow quick Pramodya Wickramasinghe’s 85 and move up into seventh place.

Dilruwan Perera (Sri Lanka)

Also hot on Wickramasinghe’s heels is all-rounder Perera, with 79 wickets from his 17 Tests so far, currently sitting in ninth place overall.

Evin Lewis stars in West Indies v India T20I

All the hype (including it must be confessed, here) leading up to Sunday’s T20I between West Indies had been about local hero Chris Gayle’s recall to the hosts’ team. However, it was his fellow opening batsman Evin Lewis that stole all the headlines during the game itself.

Prior to tonight’s game in Jamaica, only two men had ever scored more than one T20I centuries. The Universe Boss himself, and New Zealand’s former captain Brendon McCullum had previously achieved this.

There are now three, with Trinidadian Evin Lewis’s astonishing 125 not-out off 62 balls leading the home team to a comfortable 9-wicket victory over Virat Kohli’s Indians with nine balls to spare.

Evin had previously hit a 20-over century against the very same opponents in Florida in August 2016. He is the only player to have two centuries in the shortest format against the same opponents.

With this being the only game in the series, the reigning world T20 champions West Indies also claimed a series victory, in some consolation to losing the five-game ODI series 3-1 earlier in the month.

No other players notched up any particular personal milestones in this game. Virat Kohli fell short of the 71 runs he needed to move up to 4th place in the all-time run scorers list, and Samuel Badree going wicketless when two scalps would have seen him join Dwayne Bravo as the West Indies all-time leading T20I wicket-taker.


England v South Africa – 1st Test Review

On Sunday, England wrapped up an ultimately comfortable 211-run victory over South Africa on a highly eventful fourth day at Lord’s where the last 19 wickets of the 1st Test fell.

It was the perfect start to Joe Root’s England captaincy career, and his charges will go into Friday’s second Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham in great spirits.

There were a number of personal milestones achieved in the Test, some of which we accurately flagged here:

Moeen Ali (England)

England’s spinning all-rounder had the best match of his 38 Test England career to date, thoroughly deserving of his Man-of-the-Match award at the Home of Cricket.

His career best second innings figures of 6-53 were enough to see his name etched onto the famous Lord’s 5-wicket honours board for the second time, and his maiden ten-for in the match overall had the engraver working overtime as Moeen got himself on that board too.

The ten wickets saw him move from 98 scalps before the game to 108 by play’s end, and with the willow his 87 runs in the first innings also saw him past 2000 career runs. In terms of Tests played, Moeen became the second fastest England player to reach the 100 wickets/2000 runs double, in just one game more than the late Tony Greig.

All in all, a pretty good four days for the Worcestershire man!

James Anderson (England)

England’s all-time highest Test wicket-taker earned himself a world record in the Test, but it was with the bat not the ball that he etched his name into the record books.

When Jonny Bairstow became England’s tenth wicket to fall in their second innings, it left the Burnley Lara not-out in Tests for the 62nd time. He had previously shared the world record of 61 not-outs with the legendary West Indian fast bowler Courtney Walsh, but he can now lay claim to the record all by himself.

Hashim Amla (South Africa)

Although Hashim’s 40 runs in the test were not enough to see him to 8,000 runs just yet, let alone to move past AB de Villiers in third place overall for the Proteas, he did make an appearance in both batting innings, moving him to 177 innings for his country. This moved him past both de Villiers and Gary Kirsten into 4th place overall for South Africa.

Joe Root (England)

With his first-innings ton, England’s new skipper became the fourth consecutive England captain to make a century on their captaincy debut following Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook.

Root’s 190 was the highest score by an England captain on captaincy debut surpassing the 173 Cook scored in his first game in charge against Bangladesh in 2010.



West Indies v India – July 2017 T20I preview

Fresh from India wrapping up the ODI series 3-1 against their hosts the West Indies,  the focus now shifts to the shortest form of the game.  The tour concludes with a one-off T20 International on Sunday 9th July at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica.

For the hosts, it is a chance to show their T20 muscle, being the reigning world champions in the format, and comes on the back of a 3-0 series win against an up-and-coming Afghanistan team the last time they played in this format in June.

The last time India played a 20-over series was in January/February this year when they edged England 2-1.

So both sides are in good form in the format and will be looking to finish off the tour in style.

From a personal player point of view, there is plenty to focus on:

Chris Gayle (West Indies)

The pre-match news has been dominated by the surprise inclusion of self-styled Universe Boss and T20 specialist Christopher Henry Gayle in the West Indies squad. This is the first time Gayle will have appeared for the Windies since the famous night in Kolkata in April 2016 when the Caribbean superstars stunned England in the World T20 final.

It will also be the first time he has played a T20I at his home ground in Jamaica.

Gayle currently has 1,519 T20I runs, placing him in 13th spot in the world overall. He is also one of only two players (alongside the now-retired New Zealander Brendon McCullum) to have scored two 20-over international centuries.

If he can turn up the heat with a century in this game it will take him past Mohammad Hafeez into 10th place in the all-time runs scorers list (and past Eoin Morgan and AB de Villiers in 11th and 12th along the way) as well as giving him the outright world record for T20 International centuries.

Samuel Badree (West Indies)

Spinner Badree brought up 50 wickets in T20 internationals during the recent Afghanistan series, and now sits in second place in the Windies all-time T20 wicket-takers list. Three more wickets in this game will see him overtake Dwayne Bravo’s 52 and move into top spot.

Sunil Narine (West Indies)

Fellow slow-bowler Narine has 48 shortest-form international wickets, so will be looking for two more to bring up his half-century.

Virat Kohli (India)

India’s captain-superstar has scored 1,709 runs in this format of the game for his country, a total which sees him in fifth place worldwide.

71 more runs will see him move past the suspended Afghani Mohammad Shahzad into fourth, and 98 will see him edge past New Zealand’s Martin Guptill into third.

MS Dhoni (India)

India’s veteran but evergreen keeper Dhoni currently has 65 dismissals to his name in T20 Internationals, comprised of 42 catches and 23 stumpings.

It’s a long shot, but five more dismissals in the on-off game will give him a share of the world record with South African superstar AB de Villiers, who has 70.



England v South Africa – 1st Test Match Preview

After a seemingly endless wait, the first Test of the English summer is almost upon us, with England finally kicking off their Test series against South Africa on Thursday. The Basil d’Olivera trophy is up for grabs over four matches, starting with the first game at Lord’s, the home of cricket.

Both sides had disappointing ICC Champions Trophy campaigns, although England can at least take some comfort from winning both the ODI and T20I series 2-1 against the Proteas earlier in the summer. For the South Africans, however, this series is the last chance to take something positive out of a long, arduous and to-date rather unsuccessful tour of the British Isles.

South Africa are currently ranked 2nd in the ICC Test team rankings, with England two places behind in fourth. A series win for the hosts however will see them leapfrog Australia into third place.

Form wise, England’s last Test encounter saw them fall to a chastening 4-0 series defeat to India in late 2016, and prior to that they drew their previous two series in Bangladesh and at home to Pakistan last summer. Their last series win was over a year ago against Sri Lanka in the early part of the 2016 summer.

South Africa by contrast have won their last four Test series, and you have to go back 18 months to their last series defeat, at home against England. So although England are the current holders of the Basil d’Olivera trophy following that win in late 2015/early 2016, it is the Proteas who hold the better form.

Overall, the match at Lords will be the 146th Test match between the two sides, with England leading by 58 wins to 32. It is much closer in matches at Lord’s however, with England taking six wins to South Africa’s five from the 15 test matches played between the teams in St John’s Wood, NW8.

From an individual player perspective, there is much to keep an eye on over the next week or so:

Test captaincy debuts

Both sides will be represented at the toss by players marking their first game as captain for their national side.

Joe Root, long groomed as successor to Alastair Cook as England skipper, was officially appointed his permanent replacement earlier in the year following Cook’s captaincy resignation, and will become England’s 80th Test match captain.

For the Proteas, Dean Elgar stands in for usual captain Faf du Plessis who remains at home in South Africa following the birth of his child last week. By contrast, he will become just the 36th man to captain the South Africans in Tests.

Potential Test debuts

Four players as yet uncapped at Test level are in the squads for the first match of the series.

For England, Middlesex quick Toby Roland-Jones could become England’s 677th Test player if picked to play at his home ground.

For South Africa, opening batsman Heino Kuhn will likely make his debut in place of the dropped Stephen Cook, while the untried batsman Aiden Markram and all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo are also in the 16-man Proteas squad, although neither are tipped to play in the opener.

Alastair Cook (England)

He may have resigned as captain, but opening bat Cook could potentially still have years ahead of him in the England Test side as a batsman.

He currently has 11,057 test runs to his name, enough for a place in the world top ten all-time runs scorers. Where he ultimately ends up on that list by the time he calls stumps on his career will be one of the most fascinating things to track over the next couple of years.

First cab off the rank in his quest to move up the rankings is former Australian captain Allan Border who sits 117 runs ahead of Cook on 11,174, and Essex’s finest will be looking to knock him down a notch in this game.

Hashim Amla (South Africa)

South Africa’s leading batsman has a host of personal milestones in his sights in this first test.

He currently has 7,952 test runs to his name, needing just 48 to become the fourth South African and 30th player worldwide to reach 8000 test runs.

A further 75 runs will see him move to 8,075 career runs, and past his ODI captain AB de Villiers (who has all but retired form the longer format) into third place overall for the Proteas, behind only Graeme Smith and the legendary Jacques Kallis.

Amla currently has 26 test centuries under his belt, and one more hundred will see him join Smith in joint second place for his nation.

If he bats in both innings this will take him to 177 test innings, and past both de Villiers and Gary Kirsten who currently sit in joint 4th place for South Africa on 176.

Finally, Hashim has taken 91 catches for his country, and four more from his usual spot in the slips will see him move past Herschelle Gibbs on 94 into 7th place for the Proteas.

Jimmy Anderson (England)

England’s all-time highest wicket-taker (and 6th highest in the world to boot) has a couple of the more obscure records in his sights during this Test.

Jimmy has flung the ball wicket-wards 26,840 times in Test matches, putting him in tenth place in the world for that particular stat. If called upon to bowl 276 more balls, he will move up to ninth in the list past the West Indies’ Lance Gibbs who bowled the ball 27,115 times.

With the willow in hand, England’s number eleven is currently joint top in the world for not-out innings. One more bit of red ink in the record books will see him move clear of another West Indian Courtney Walsh and claim that particular world record for himself.

Moeen Ali (England)

England’s spin bowling all rounder has personal milestones to look forward to with both bat and ball.

He needs 73 more runs to move to 2,000 in the longest format of the game for England, and just two wickets to bring up his century of victims.

Ben Stokes (England)

England’s other all-rounder, Durham’s talismanic Ben Stokes, also has 2000 runs in his sights, sitting just 98 away from the mark on 1,902.

Jonny Bairstow (England)

YJB, now firmly established as England’s Test keeper, has 93 catches in Tests, so needs just seven more to bring up a century of grabs.

Vernon Philander (South Africa)

The burly Philander has taken 161 Test wickets for South Africa, which sees him in eighth place for his country. An impressive nine wickets on the upcoming match will see him draw level with Hugh Tayfield in seventh place.