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.

Australia vs England – 1st Ashes Test preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alastair Cook (England)

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

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

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

Jimmy Anderson (England)

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

Stuart Broad (England)

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

Steven Smith (Australia)

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

David Warner (Australia)

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


India v Sri Lanka – 1st Test Preview

Kolkata’s Eden Gardens cricket ground has hosted forty test matches over its storied history since becoming India’a second test venue in 1934, but never before has it welcomed Sri Lanka onto its hallowed turf. All that will change on Thursday, with the Lions due to make their long-awaited bow at India’s home of cricket in the first of a three-match Test series. Nagpur and Delhi will host the second and third matches respectively. These, remarkably, will be Sri Lanka’s first tests in India since 2009. A long time between drinks!

Sri Lanka have never won a Test match on Indian soil, having lost ten and drawn seven of the seventeen matches between the two sides held in India since the islanders were granted test status 35 years ago.

One suspects that this may not be the series where India’s dominance over their southern neighbours is broken. India are in supreme form in the longest form of the game, having lost only two of their last 30 tests, and having to look back nearly three years for their last series defeat. Their most recent test outfit was a 3-0 series win in Sri Lanka where the home side was rarely in contention. India are ranked number 1 in the ICC team rankings, and their ranking is not unjustified. The supreme form, allied with homefield advantage, makes Virat Kohli’s men strong favourites.

Sri Lanka have had a torrid time of things in 2017, with often embarrassing defeats suffered regularly throughout the year and captaincy changes a-plenty. They can at least point to their most recent Test series delivering a shock 2-0 series sweep against Pakistan in their temporary fortress of the UAE. Not many visiting teams have won tests in the emirates, let alone series, and Sri Lanka will be hoping this unexpected win will carry them on a crest of confidence as they head across the Palk Strait to the northerly neighbours.

There are plenty of individual milestones and potential records to keep an eye on as the Eden Gardens fixture unfolds:

Virat Kohli (India)

A regular feature of these pages, India’s superstar captain always seems to be on the verge of breaking another record or milestone. This time, focus will be on whether he can notch up a 50th international century for his country, having already scored 17 Test tonnes alongside 32 in ODIs.

R Ashwin (India)

Along with teammate Ravindra Jadeja, Ashwin is one half of India’s all conquering, spin-bowling, all-rounder double act. Jadeja is ahead of his fellow spin king in both the ICC bowler and all-rounder rankings, but Ashwin has more scores on the doors in terms of wickets. He currently sits with 292 victims to his name, and will fancy his chances of becoming only the fifth Indian bowler to reach the 300 milestone. Anil Kumble, Kapil Dev, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan would be some pretty good company to be in should he join that exclusive club.

Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)

Sri Lanka have a spin-bowling superstar of their own in the ageless Herath, currently ranked as the fifth best test bowler in world cricket.

He current;y has 405 career test wickets in his kit bag, enough for joint twelfth in the all-time rankings, alongside West Indies legend Curtly Ambrose. Herath has a habit of picking up ten-wicket hauls, and one more in this game would see him edge past Wasim Akram’s 414 into eleventh place. A not entirely unrealistic thirteen wicket haul would see him move into the top ten, joining Harbhajan Singh from the host nation, and South Africa’s Dale Steyn on 417 wickets.

Dilruwan Perera (Sri Lanka)

Another spinner looking to make a mark in the Gardens, Perera will be hoping for seven wickets to take him from his current 93 to the 100 wicket milestone.

If he achieves it, he will move from a current seventh place in his country’s all-time wicket-taker list, past Sanath Jayasuriya in 6th on 98 and will join Dilhara Fernandon in fifth on the round 100. Lasith Malinga is just one further ahead on 101 in fourth, and not out of Dilruwan’s reach by any means.

Dinesh Chandimal (Sri Lanka)

It has often been difficult to keep up with such things in 2017, but Chandimal is currently Sri Lanka’s Test captain. The skipper has 2.930 runs to his name so will be hoping for seventy more to take him past the 3,000 career milestone.





Bangladesh v Australia – 1st Test Preview

When Steve Smith’s Australian side take the field tomorrow at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium, Mirpur in the suburbs of Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka, it will be a rare sight indeed. It is 11 years, and four cancelled tours, since Australia last deemed Bangladesh worthy of playing in a Test match.

Not they bothered to play them much before then either – this two-match series is only the third ever between the two sides, and only Australia’s second visit to Bangladesh since the Tigers were admitted as a Test side 17 years ago.

Of those paltry four matches played between the sides, Australia have won all four, but much has changed since 2006, and the hosts will be no pushover this time around. Although Bangladesh have only won nine of their 100 Test matches played since their elevation to Full member status in 2000, two of those wins have come in the last twelve months – a first ever win against England at home and an away victory against Sri Lanka. They have also taken great strides in one-day cricket, and are especially dangerous in home conditions. They will be confident they can push Australia hard and cause an upset.

Australia have not played Test cricket since their series loss in India in March, and will be hoping that they can emulate their performance in the first test of that series in Pune rather than the following three.

An intriguing series awaits. There are a few significant personal milestones likely to be established also:

Nathan Lyon (Australia)

Australia’s leading spin bowler, the most-capped player in the squad, will be hoping subcontinental conditions are to his liking – you would certainly back him to take the three wickets he needs to bring up 250 for his country in Tests.

Currently sitting on 247, he also needs just one to draw level with the legendary Richie Benaud in eighth spot in Australia’s all time wicket takers list – a wonderful achievement for the man from Young in New South Wales.

If the pitch is a real turner, he might even take the 12 wickets he needs to move up one spot higher, alongside Jason Gillespie’s 259 in seventh place.

Steve Smith (Australia)

With his unorthodox but evidently highly effective batting action, captain Smith has already notched up a remarkable 20 centuries for the Australians in Tests. Just one more in this test will see him move into joint ninth place for his country alongside the fabulously mustachioed David Boon and Neil Harvey.

Shakib-Al-Hasan and Tamim Iqbal (Bangladesh)

Bangladesh’s two leading test run-scorers will both notch up their 50th Test appearances in this first test.

Shakib is also far and away the Tigers’ leading wicket-taker too, and sits proudly as the ICC’s highest ranked all-rounder in Tests (and ODIs and T20Is for that matter!) A hugely underrated player on the world stage, he will be hoping to add to his 179 wickets.


England v West Indies – 2nd Test Preview

There was supposed to only be four days’ rest in between the first and second Tests of England’s three-match series against West Indies. As it turned out, England’s thumping victory within three days (or days and nights to be more precise) has given both sides extra time off to prepare for this game (or to practice their golf swings at least.)

England will be looking to wrap up successive Test series during the second Test, which starts at Headingley in Leeds on Friday morning (yes, morning!) For their part, the West Indians will be hoping against all odds that a quick turnaround in their fortunes will bring about their first Test win in England since the year 2000.

There is much to watch out for from an individual player milestone perspective too:

Jimmy Anderson (England)

Jimmy’s longtime fast bowling partner-in-crime Stuart Broad took most of the milestone headlines at Edgbaston, having overtaken Ian Botham as England’s second highest Test wicket-taker.

However all eyes will be on Anderson’s “W” column in this test, as he sits on 492 wickets, only eight shy of becoming just the sixth bowler in Test cricket history to crack the 500 barrier. If he gets there, he will only the third fast bowler after Glenn Mcgrath and Courtney Walsh to get there.

Jimmy will also edge one place up a much more obscure ladder in this match, as his 27,724 balls bowled in the longest format sees him just 16 balls behind Kapil Dev in eighth place. So on the fifth ball of Jimmy’s third over bowled, be sure to raise a glass to that!

Alastair Cook (England)

Such are Chef’s stats at the moment, that he seems to be a perennial feature in these updates. Cook’s 243 masterpiece at Edgbaston moved him to 11,568 career runs. If he can squeak out four more runs at Headingley and score 247, he’ll move past Mahela Jayawardene into eighth place overall worldwide.

Perhaps more likely is a potential 32nd Test century, which would see him move into the World top ten for that statistic, alongside Australia’s Steve Waugh.

He also needs just one more catch at slip to notch up 150 grabs for his country.

Stuart Broad (England)

Having moved past one England legend in the wicket stakes in the first Test, Broad will move alongside in this one. His 108th Test for England sees him move up from 10th to joint 9th place alongside Geoffrey Boycott.

Jonny Bairstow (England)

Such is the impressive nature of YJB’s keeping, that in what seems like a blink of the eye, he already sits in eleventh place in the “dismissals” column of England’s record books – with 112 catches and 6 stumpings totalling 118 dismissals.

Two more at his home ground in Leeds will move him past Colin Cowdrey and Ian Botham into tenth place, and three more also past his ultimate boss Andrew Strauss into ninth. I doubt Strauss would mind too much!

Jason Holder (West Indies)

Much like positives to take from Edgbaston, its slim pickings for milestones for West Indies’ players here. However, six runs for captain Holder will see him notch up his 1000 in the format, currently sitting on 994.

England v West Indies – 1st Test Preview

Thursday sees the English Test summer enter its second phase with the first of a three-match series between England and the West Indies.

The match at Edgbaston in Birmingham has extra significance for England, being the first day/night Test for the home side. The Windies have a little more experience with the pink ball, having previously played one Test under lights, against Pakistan in Dubai earlier this year. They will be hoping for a better result though, as they lost that encounter by 56 runs.

This upcoming match will be the 153rd encounter between the two sides, with the visitors leading by 54 wins to England’s 46, with 51 games having been drawn. On English soil, the hosts lead 32 wins to 29.

England are now ranked 3rd in the world Test rankings after their 3-1 series win earlier in the summer against South Africa, and hence will start as strong favourites. The West Indies by contrast are ranked 8th, only ahead of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and have not won a Test series for nearly three years. You have to go back to 1998 for the last time they won a series against England, although the sides did split the last set they played, 1-1 in the Caribbean in 2015.

The first Test may also see some personal milestones:

Mark Stoneman, Mason Crane (England) & Kyle Hope, Raymon Reifer (West Indies)

With two uncapped players in each squad, there could be as many as four debutants making their Test bow at Edgbaston.

Surrey opener Stoneman is the most likely to play, having been named the latest to try and stop the England opener revolving door. Eleven players have tried to keep Alastair Cook company since Andrew Strauss’s retirement and all have failed (or at least been deemed to have failed) – will it be twelfth time lucky for England’s selectors?

If Kyle Hope plays, it could be either alongside or in place of his brother Shai, who is also in the Windies’ squad.

Chris Woakes (England)

Local boy and talented all-rounder Woakes will be hoping to force his way back into the team following an injury-enforced absence. Prior to his injury, he had gone a long way to establishing himself as England’s third seamer, but will now face a selection battle with Toby Roland-Jones, who looked mightily impressive in his two games against South Africa at The Oval and Old Trafford.

If Woakes does play, he needs three wickets with the pink ball to bring up 50 Test scalps in England whites.

Stuart Broad (England)

Fellow seamer Broad has not grabbed the headlines so far this summer, but has slowly and quietly been edging his way closer to a very significant milestone. He sits on 379 Test match wickets, and five more in this game will see him move past legendary all-rounder Ian Botham’s 383 and into second place all-time for England.

Only team mate Jimmy Anderson has more – over a hundred more – 487 and counting.

Alastair Cook (England)

Ex-skipper Cook takes to the Edgbaston turf it what will be his 145th Test match – enough to see him move into the world all-time top ten appearances list, alongside Australia’s Shane Warne.

Jason Holder (West Indies)

The West Indies captain leads an inexperienced squad into battle in England. He will be looking to lead from the front with both bat and ball, needing 17 runs and nine wickets to bring up his 1000-run and 50-wicket milestones.

England v South Africa (Basil D’Olivera Trophy) Fourth Test Preview

The four-match series between England and South Africa concludes with the fourth Test at Old Trafford in Manchester on Friday.

England lead the series 2-1 following their crushing 239-run defeat of the Proteas at the Oval earlier this week, retaining the Basil D’Olivera Trophy they won on South African soil in 2015/16 in the process.

The hosts will be looking to wrap up a first home series win against their African visitors since 1998, whilst Faf du Plessis’s team will be desperate to level the series, and end their largely disappointing tour of England on something of a high. After losing both the ODI and T20I series between the two sides earlier in the summer, the South Africans can at least share the spoils of the Test series with a win in the north-west.

The Test has been given some extra romance with the news announced on Thursday that the Pavilion End at Old Trafford has been renamed “The James Anderson End” in honour of the local Lancashire hero and England’s all-time leading wicket-taker. The Burnley Express will no doubt be looking to celebrate with a wicket or five from his very own end!

A number of other players will hope to reach some personal milestones during the Test too:

Hashim Amla (South Africa)

After a disappointing third Test at the Oval, Hashim Amla can take some solace that his 106th Test appearance for South Africa in the Old Trafford Test will move him past AB de Villiers into fifth place all-time for the Rainbow Nation.

He also only needs two further catches in the slips to move onto 95 catches and past Herschelle Gibbs into seventh place for his country.

Morne Morkel (South Africa)

The big quick has taken 498 wickets in South African colours across all formats of the game, snaffling 266, 186 and 46 Test, ODI and T20I wickets respectively. Just two more will bring up 500.

Joe Root (England)

England’s skipper may be on the wrong side of the Pennines for a Yorkshireman this week, but as well as looking to wrap up the series win, he’ll be aiming to score 46 more runs to bring up his 5,000 Test runs for England.

Sri Lanka v India – Second Test Preview

The second Test of this three-match series takes place at the Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) ground in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo, starting on Thursday 3rd August.

India will look to wrap up the series with a game to spare, as they are already 1-0 up after their comprehensive 304-run drubbing of their hosts in the shadow of the Galle Fort last week.

Both sides will welcome back injured players into the starting XIs with India having confirmed KL Rahul will return, likely in place of Abinhav Mukund given fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan notched a 190-run masterpiece in Galle. Sri Lanka will be boosted by the return from a bout of pneumonia of their new Test captain, Dinesh Chandimal.

Look out for the following personal milestones:

Cheteshwar Pujara (India)

Fresh on the back of a big hundred at Galle, first-drop Pujara now has 3,966 career runs. He plays his 50th Test for India at the SSC and will be looking to celebrate by bringing up the 4,000 run milestone.

Ravichandran Ashwin (India)

With 1,950 runs to his name, India’s spinning all-rounder is just 50 runs shy of a career 2,000.

Ravindra Jadeja (India)

Jadeja’s six scalps in the first Test took him to 148 career test wickets, needing just two more for his 150.

Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)

Despite an injury scare at the end of the first test, it appears that the lovable Rangaga will be fit for the second game. We previewed his upcoming milestones in some details in our preview of the first test.

However, he had a relatively quiet game by his own high standards as stand-in captain in Galle, only taking the one wicket. He therefore still needs to six to overtake Mikhaya Ntini’s 390 and move into 14th place in the all-time wicket takers list.


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.