Specials – India v Pakistan ODI finals over the years

  Arch-rivals India and Pakistan are set to face each other in the final of the eighth edition of the Champions Trophy at the Oval today. Though this will be the first time that these two sides will contest an ICC ODI tournament final, they have often met in summit clashes over the years. Let us go back in time and revisit the instances of India and Pakistan squaring off in an ODI tournament final.

Benson and Hedges World Championship of Cricket, 1984-85

  In what was the final of a one-of-a-kind tournament featuring all seven Test nations, World Cup champions India posted a convincing eight-wicket win under lights at Melbourne. Kapil Dev (3/23) and L. Sivaramakrishnan (3/35) limited Pakistan to 176/9, which was chased down with 17 balls to spare, thanks to openers Kris Srikkanth (67) and ‘champion of champions’ Ravi Shastri (63*).

Austral-Asia Cup, 1986

  The final of the inaugural Austral-Asia Cup at Sharjah produced a classic that is etched in cricketing folklore. Sunil Gavaskar’s 92 guided India, who were inserted in, to 245/7. In reply, an equation of 90 from ten overs did not bother Javed Miandad (116*). With four needed off the last ball, the ‘Karachi streetfighter’ famously hit Chetan Sharma for six to seal Pakistan’s one-wicket win.

    With four needed off the last ball, Javed Miandad hit a six to ensure a famous win for Pakistan in the 1985-86 Austral-Asia Cup final 

Wills Trophy, 1991-92

  India and Pakistan pipped the West Indies to set up the final of this triangular series in Sharjah. Zahid Fazal (98*) and Saleem Malik (87) put on 171 for the third wicket before the former retired hurt, helping Pakistan to a sturdy 262/6. In the chase, India’s batsmen succumbed to paceman Aaqib Javed, who grabbed record figures of 7/37, including a hat-trick, as his team triumphed by 72 runs.

Austral-Asia Cup, 1993-94

  Pakistan won their third successive Austral-Asia Cup after beating India in the final. Aamer Sohail top-scored with 69 while Basit Ali hit a breezy 57 in Pakistan’s total of 250/6; off-spinner Rajesh Chauhan impressed with 3/29. India then fell apart from 163/4 to be dismissed for 211 in the 48th over, a fifth-wicket stand of 80 between Vinod Kambli and Atul Bedade going in vain.

Silver Jubilee Independence Cup, 1997-98

  This tri-series was played in Dhaka to mark 25 years of Bangladesh’s independence. India and Pakistan locked horns in the best-of-three finals after the hosts bowed out. The first final, a 46-over affair, ended in India’s favour with 53 balls and eight wickets to spare after openers Sachin Tendulkar (95) and Sourav Ganguly (68) put on 159 to shut Pakistan, who managed 212/8, out of the game.

  Pakistan turned the tables in the second final with a fine bowling display, spearheaded by left-arm spinner Mohammad Hussain (4/33). Only captain Mohammad Azharuddin (66) stood tall in a total of 189. Pakistan, buoyed by an attacking 51 from Saeed Anwar, galloped to a six-wicket win in 31.3 overs. The batsmen treated leggie Sairaj Bahutule with disdain, taking 53 off his five overs.

     Sourav Ganguly scored 124 to inspire India to a record-breaking win in the third final of the Independence Cup in 1997-98 (source – wisdenindia.com)

  The decider was a 48-over thriller that saw a new record for the highest successful chase. Pakistan amassed 314/5, with Anwar (140) and Ijaz Ahmed (117) adding 230 for the third wicket. Sourav Ganguly (124) and Robin Singh (82) took India to 250/1 in 38 overs, but the game went down to the wire – with three needed in two balls, Hrishikesh Kanitkar hit a four to give India a three-wicket win.

Pepsi Cup, 1998-99

  Pakistan had notched easy wins in their two league matches against India, and it was no different in the final of this tri-series (also involving Sri Lanka) at Bangalore. Inzamam-ul Haq (91) and Shahid Afridi (65) powered Pakistan to 291/8, which was too big a total for the hosts as they were undone by man of the match Azhar Mahmood, who took 5/38 to star in a 123-run victory.

Coca-Cola Cup, 1998-99

  India’s travails against Pakistan continued in the final of yet another tri-series, with England being the knocked-out team this time. The venue was Sharjah, Pakistan’s home away from home, and the bowlers rose to the occasion to skittle India out for 125 in 45 overs, with only Ganguly (50) showing some fight. The minuscule target was chased down in 28 overs with eight wickets still in the bag.

Kitply Cup, 2008

  India had thumped Pakistan by 140 runs in the league stage of this short tri-series in Dhaka, also featuring hosts Bangladesh, but the men in green raised their game in the final, winning by 25 runs. A second-wicket stand of 209 between Salman Butt (129) and Younis Khan (108) was the cornerstone of Pakistan’s 315/3. Despite fifties by M.S Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, India folded for 290 in 48.2 overs.

Specials – Recalling the best of the 2007 World Cup

  It has been ten years since the ninth edition of the Cricket World Cup, which began in the Caribbean on 13th March, 2007 and featured a record 16 teams.

  The tournament drew considerable flak from many quarters for its long-drawn format and overpriced tickets, not to mention the embarrassing gaffe by the umpires in the rain-reduced final between Australia and Sri Lanka.

  According to the critics, the shocking death of Pakistan’s coach Bob Woolmer and the early ousters of marquee teams such as India and Pakistan further dampened the tournament that was trumpeted to be the world’s biggest cricket carnival.

  However, the showpiece event saw plenty of eye-catching performances and fairytale moments that are still fresh in the memory even after a decade. For instance, Ireland’s remarkable giant-killing journey is now part of cricketing folklore, while Australia blitzed to their third successive title with a ruthless domination over every team they faced.

  Let us look back at the best from the saga that was the 2007 World Cup:

A rush of records

  A clutch of new World Cup records were created in the 2007 edition. India became the first team to surpass the 400-run barrier, scoring 413/5 against Bermuda; their 257-run win becoming the biggest victory margin.

  A record aggregate of 671 was gathered as well, in the group match between Australia and South Africa at Basseterre; in the same match, Matthew Hayden scored the fastest World Cup hundred, off 66 balls. All these records have since been broken.

Australia conquer one and all

  Never before had any team imposed their supremacy in a World Cup tournament in the manner Australia did in 2007. Gunning for a hat trick of titles, Ricky Ponting’s men won all eleven matches in thumping fashion to reaffirm their status as the undisputed kings of ODI cricket. 

  They reserved their most clinical display for New Zealand – the team that had whitewashed them 3-0 in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy in the lead-up to the tournament. The Black Caps were thrashed by a whopping 215 runs at St. George’s in the Super Eight stage as Australia provided a rude reminder that no one could hold a candle to them on the biggest stage of them all.

     Australia, who were undefeated throughout the tournament, won their third successive World Cup trophy (source – icc-cricket.com)

  Their inevitable march towards glory culminated with handsome wins over South Africa – who crashed to 27/5 after batting first – and Sri Lanka in the semi-final and final respectively.

Pluck of the Irish

  First-time participants Ireland, clubbed in a tough Group D, were the toast of the tournament as they won the hearts of all and sundry with their spunky campaign that produced two memorable wins and a tie against full member teams.

  Led by the spirited Trent Johnston, the Irish first held Zimbabwe to a nerve-shredding tie at Kingston to show that they were not going to be pushovers as the tournament progressed.

  Four days later – on St. Patrick’s Day, no less – at the same venue, Ireland astonished the cricket world by bowling 1992 champions Pakistan out for 132 and then winning by three wickets, thanks to Niall O’Brien’s superb 72. They went on to collect another scalp in the Super Eight round, in the form of Bangladesh, who were resoundingly beaten by 74 runs at Bridgetown.

Tigers come of age

  On the same day that Ireland knocked Pakistan out, Bangladesh put India on the brink of elimination with a famous five-wicket win at Port-of-Spain. Disciplined bowling from the Tigers ensured that the fancied Indian batsmen could manage no more than 191.

  This win was the ticket they needed to make it to the Super Eight, wherein they upset South Africa by 67 runs. After enduring a winless campaign in 2003, this was a much-needed boost for Bangladeshi cricket.

Pigeon flies off in style

  A couple of months before the World Cup, the great Glenn McGrath had a triumphant end to his Test career as Australia regained the Ashes with a 5-0 win at home.

  His ODI farewell was even sweeter, as he topped the bowling charts at the World Cup with a record tally of 26 wickets at a stunning average of 13.73, for which he was named Player of the Tournament. His penetrative bowling at the top proved that this Pigeon could fly high even at the age of 37.

      Playing in their first World Cup, unfancied Ireland conjured memorable wins over Pakistan and Bangladesh (source – icc-cricket.com)

Gilchrist squashes the Lankans

  Australian legend Adam Gilchrist pounded the Sri Lankan attack with a whirlwind 149 from 104 balls in the rain-hit final at Bridgetown. This title-clinching innings – the highest ever in a World Cup final – was studded with 13 fours and eight sixes, and knocked the wind out of the opposition, which was hoping for an encore of the 1996 summit clash when Australia were at the receiving end.

  Gilchrist’s assault carried Australia to a winning total of 281/4 in the allotted 38 overs. The secret to his powerful hitting turned out to be a squash ball, which he had placed in the glove of his bottom hand and credited it for giving him a better grip.

  It was an unusual tactic to employ, but certainly not illegal. With this win by 53 runs on the D/L method, Australia stretched their unbeaten streak in the World Cup to 30 matches, dating back to 1999.

That catch by Dwayne Leverock

  Bermudan policeman Dwayne Leverock, weighing in at over 280 pounds, provided one of the most iconic World Cup moments when he took a catch at first slip off the bowling of 17-year-old Malachi Jones to dismiss India’s Robin Uthappa in a Group B match at Port-of-Spain.

  Leverock dived to the right to take a stunning one-handed catch, after which he took off on a celebratory run across the field even as Jones wept with joy. “He has flown like a gazelle…the earth shook! Oh what a catch!”, exclaimed commentator David Lloyd on air.

  Though India had the last laugh, smashing 413/5, then the highest World Cup total , en route a 257-run victory, Leverock made sure that he attained cult status with his gravity-defying exhibition of athleticism.

Gibbs goes hammer and tongs

  Exciting South African stroke-maker Herschelle Gibbs became the first man to hit six sixes in an over in international cricket, when he achieved the rare feat against the Netherlands in a Group A match at Basseterre. The unfortunate bowler to suffer this onslaught was leg-spinner Daan van Bunge, who returned forgettable figures of 4-0-56-0 as South Africa romped home by 221 runs.

       South Africa’s Herschelle Gibbs became the first man to hit six sixes in an over in international cricket, achieving the feat against the Netherlands (source – rediff.com)

  In what was a rain-reduced 40-over affair, the Proteas were warming up nicely at 178/2 when the historic 30th over began. The first one went over long-on, the next two were smote over long-off, the fourth slogged over deep mid-wicket, the fifth swatted over wide long-off and finally another over deep mid-wicket. Gibbs scored 72 from just 40 balls as South Africa piled up 353/3.

‘Slinga’ Malinga creates history

  Sri Lanka’s curly-haired speedster Lasith Malinga, renowned for his slingshot action, became the first man to capture four wickets in four balls in any form of international cricket during his side’s Super Eight clash with South Africa at Providence.

  Needing 210 for victory, South Africa seemed home and dry at 206/5 when Malinga dismissed Shaun Pollock (bowled) Andrew Hall (caught at cover) off the last two balls of the 45th over. He returned in the 47th over and duly removed the well-settled Jacques Kallis (caught behind) for 86 and Makhaya Ntini (bowled) off the first two balls to reduce the score to 207/9.

  Nevertheless, South Africa eventually scampered home by one wicket, Malinga’s 4/54 going in vain. His was the fifth instance of World Cup hat-trick, and in 2011, he became the first bowler to take two World Cup hat-tricks.

Swansongs galore

  As aforementioned, Glenn McGrath had the perfect send-off from international cricket, but other illustrious names were not as lucky. Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq bid a tearful farewell to ODI cricket, bowing out from what was a nightmarish tourney for his team in the last group game against Zimbabwe.

  West Indian captain Brian Lara too quit international cricket, after his team failed to meet the expectations of the home crowd. Yet another captain to retire from ODI cricket following the World Cup was England’s Michael Vaughan, while New Zealand’s Stephen Fleming gave up the captaincy after ten years at the helm.

  Furthermore, Greg Chappell and Duncan Fletcher, respective coaches of India and England, resigned from their posts. Victorious Australian coach John Buchanan also called time on a highly successful eight-year tenure.

Specials – When a bunch of amateurs nearly capsized the table-toppers

  Ten years ago, a motley crew of amateurs from the Emerald Isle embarked upon a life-changing expedition to the Caribbean. They had among their ranks a teacher, an electrician, a postman, a fabric salesman and a handyman. Little did they know that over the next month and  half, they were to become the new darlings of international cricket.

  Clubbed with hosts West Indies, Pakistan and Zimbabwe, the Irish unknowns were naturally written off by pundits and laymen alike even before they had set foot. It did not matter that Ireland had beaten two of their group rivals on the 50-over scene earlier. They had come off a poor World Cricket League outing in Nairobi and were just not meant to make it to the second round.

  However, a mere five days into the tournament, Ireland tore the form book and awakened the ignorant from their slumber. Back home, few were even aware that the national team was at the World Cup. The men in green first tied with Zimbabwe and then memorably dispatched Pakistan on St. Patrick’s Day. Not only did they enter the second round, they did it with a game to spare.

  On 5th March, 2007, 12 days before they knocked Pakistan out, Ireland took on mighty South Africa in the first of two warm-up fixtures. The Proteas had been freshly crowned as the world’s top-ranked ODI side, toppling defending World Cup champions Australia off their perch, if only briefly. Incidentally, South Africa were the first Test nation that Ireland ever beat, back in 1904.

  The scene for this warm-up match was the nondescript Sir Frank Worrell Memorial Ground in the town of Saint Augustine – having a population of less than 5,000 – in north-western Trinidad and Tobago. Each side had the liberty to play up to 13 players, of which 11 could bat and field. South Africa were at full strength, and were widely expected to win in a canter.

dave-langford-smith_2007

        Irish pace bowler Dave Langford-Smith celebrates after dismissing South Africa’s A.B de Villiers in a 2007 World Cup warm-up match (source – gettyimages)

  After Graeme Smith elected to bat first, Irish pluck came to the fore in the form of Sydney-born fast bowler David Langford-Smith, who had become the first Irishman to take an ODI wicket nine months before, when he dismissed a certain Ed Joyce at Belfast. He set the tone by removing Smith, caught behind by Niall O’Brien with the total at 15.

  Eleven runs later, Langford-Smith collected his second scalp, breaking through the defences of Abraham de Villiers, who was still a few years away from being christened as cricket’s ‘Mr. 360’. It got even better when the great Jacques Kallis too failed to read Langford-Smith’s medium pace, losing his woodwork in the process. The triple strike had reduced South Africa to 42/3.

  Herschelle Gibbs seemed to be in an attacking mood, having belted four boundaries in his 21, when the resolute Trent Johnston stopped him in his tracks by castling him to make it 57/4. Gibbs was the first of Johnston’s four victims, as the Wollongong-born Irish captain proceeded to make a mockery of the South African middle order with his tricky seam bowling.

  The wicket of Ashwell Prince ensured that the top five of the South African line-up were back in the hut with only 64 on the board. Ireland’s glee was soon escalated when the dangerous Shaun Pollock nicked one to the keeper and Loots Bosman got clean bowled in the same Johnston over. The number one ODI team had lost five for nine, and were now tottering at an unthinkable 66/7.

  As long as Mark Boucher was there in the middle, the innings had every chance of a revival. But John Mooney’s innocuous medium pace induced him to offer a catch to Kevin O’Brien, one of the better fielders in the Irish side. Ireland’s joy knew no bounds as South Africa were left gasping for breath at 91/8. Was an upset on the cards even before the tournament started?

  Andrew Hall thought otherwise though. The all-rounder, who came in at the fall of the seventh wicket, calmly rebuilt from the rubble with an unbeaten 67 off 98 balls. He found support from Robin Peterson, and together they frustrated the Irish with a ninth-wicket stand worth 85. South Africa-born Andre Botha, who played first-class cricket for Griqualand West, took the last two wickets.

trent-johnston_2007

      Irish captain Trent Johnston, who took 4/40, exults after taking the wicket of Ashwell Prince at St. Augustine (source – gettyimages)

  South Africa recovered to post 192 in exactly 50 overs, a total that was certainly within the realm of possibility for Ireland to chase. Johnston finished with 4/40 from ten overs while Langford-Smith collected 3/30 from eight. It was now up to the batsmen to deliver and supplement such a fine display by the bowlers, South Africa’s rearguard notwithstanding.

  Jeremy Bray perished early, caught behind off speedster Andre Nel for a single, but fellow opener William Porterfield held the innings together with a composed 37 despite losing Eoin Morgan and Niall O’Brien at the other end, both falling to Hall. It was Roger Telamachus who dislodged Porterfield, caught by Smith, to put Ireland in a dicey situation at 85/4.

  Kevin O’Brien then joined Botha in the middle, and the pair guided Ireland to a position of real strength with a fifth-wicket partnership of 54. Only 54 runs now separated the underdogs from an astonishing victory, and they still had six wickets in hand. Botha’s caught-behind dismissal to Nel for 40 however gave South Africa the opening they so desperately needed.

  The inexperience of the Irish batsmen proved to be their undoing and they suffered a meltdown, thus squandering their grip on the contest. The lower order failed to capitalise on the gains made thus far as pacemen Hall (3/30) and Charl Langeveldt (4/31) combined to dispose the last five wickets for just 11 runs. Kevin O’Brien tried his best to hang around, but was ninth out for 33.

  The Irish innings wound up at 157 in 44.2 overs, leaving South Africa relived victors by a narrow margin of 35 runs. Ireland’s bowlers, led by Langford-Smith (4/41) starred again in the second warm-up game against Canada three days later to help secure an easy seven-wicket win for their side.

  It may have just been a warm-up and Ireland may have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, but the spirit that emanated from their performance against a star-studded outfit that day was carried right into the tournament, during which they delighted their supporters and made the cricket world sit up and take notice of their exploits. Irish cricket was never the same again.

Match Scorecard

Specials – Revisiting the best of Rachael Heyhoe-Flint

  Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, who passed away on 18th January at the age of 77, was a pioneer of women’s cricket and an undisputed great of the game. Due to her noteworthy achievements as a successful captain of England, an administrator and a vocal crusader of gender equality, she has left an indelible mark on the game and the way it is run today.

  Heyhoe-Flint was a major catalyst in the ideation of the first Women’s World Cup in 1973, which predated the inaugural men’s edition by two years. As if this was not enough, she went on to lead England to victory in the tournament. In 1998, she actively campaigned for the path-breaking vote that allowed women to become members of the hallowed Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

  Born in Wolverhampton, Heyhoe-Flint was a first-rate top-order batswoman who played 22 Tests and 23 ODIs in an international career that spanned from 1959-60 to 1981-82. Her tally of 1594 Test runs, scored at an average of 45.54, is currently the third-highest in the women’s game, while her ODI average of 58.45 still remains the highest among those who played at least 20 innings.

  Captaincy came calling for the first time in 1966, when she took over the reins for the home series against New Zealand. Never in her 12 Tests in charge did she taste defeat. In 2010, she was christened a peer in the House of Lord’s, thus taking the title of Baroness Heyhoe-Flint. In the same year, she became the first female inductee in the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.

rachael-heyhoe-flint

       Rachael Heyhoe-Flint – a pioneer of the game who took on the establishment for the sake of a better future for women’s cricket (source – gettyimages/centralpress)

  While her impact was felt beyond the cricketing field, the genesis of Heyhoe-Flint’s commendable journey lay in her credentials as one of the finest batswomen the world has seen. As a tribute to her inspirational career as the first truly iconic female cricketing personality, we look back, in chronological order, at five of her most significant performances for England.

113 and 59* v New Zealand, Scarborough, 1966

  Heyhoe-Flint celebrated her first Test in charge with her maiden century for England. She followed her 113 – which remained her highest score for a decade – in the first innings with an unbeaten half-century in the second. Though the match ended in a dour draw, the new captain led from the front – something which would be repeated several times in the years to come. 

76 and 68 v Australia, Adelaide, 1968-69

  England had secured a series win over Australia after 26 years in 1963, but the challenge now was to defend the ‘Ashes’ (not until 1998 were series between the two nations officially called the Women’s Ashes) five-and-a-half years later in Australia. Heyhoe-Flint had since taken over as captain and was a vital cog as far as the hopes of England, playing in Australia after 12 years, were concerned.

  The skipper duly made a mark in the first Test at the Barton Oval in Adelaide. Coming in at number three, she produced a knock of 76, sharing in a second-wicket stand of 127 with debutante Enid Blakewell (113). With her team trailing by 69, she averted any potential second-innings awkwardness with a patient 68, thus beginning her first overseas series as captain with twin fifties.

114 v Young England, Ilford, 1973

  Heyhoe-Flint’s only ODI century came at the 1973 World Cup against Young England, which was essentially a team made up of U-25 players. She rescued England from a tricky 55/3 with a resolute 114, making up nearly half of her team’s total of 231/6 in the allotted 60 overs. Set a rain-revised target of 152 from 39 overs, Young England went down by 50 runs.

rachel-heyhoe-flint-009

       In 2010, Rachael Heyhoe-Flint became the first female cricketer to be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame (source – gettyimages)

64 v Australia, Edgbaston, 1973

  The inaugural Women’s World Cup was a seven-team round-robin affair, with the title going to the league topper. England and Australia, respectively having 16 and 17 points, played the concluding match at Edgbaston, which was in effect the final. England’s only loss in the tournament had come at the hands of New Zealand.

  Luck favoured Heyhoe-Flint at the toss and she had no hesitation in deciding to bat. With opener Blakewell (118) for company, she was involved in a partnership worth 117 for the second wicket that took the wind out of Australia’s sails. She was eventually dismissed for a busy 64, playing her part in England’s strong total of 279/3, which was enough by 92 runs for a memorable World Cup title.

179 v Australia, The Oval, 1976

  Heyhoe-Flint fittingly produced her career-best score when her team was in adversity against the old enemy. England had been the ‘Ashes’ holders since 1963, but their defence was under serious threat after they were bundled out for a paltry 134 on the first day of the third Test at the Oval. The visitors further seized the advantage by racking up 379 on the board.

  The third and final day belonged to the captain as she staged a remarkable second-dig rescue act, batting for nearly nine hours in compiling a stonewalling 179. England were in a dire position at 76/3, still 169 in arrears, but Heyhoe-Flint went on undeterred, shepherding her side to 326 and a series-saving draw. Her effort was then the second-best score in a Women’s Test.

  From being the first woman to hit a six in a Test in 1963 to becoming the first woman to be elected to the full committee of the MCC in 2004, Rachael Heyhoe-Flint’s association with cricket encompassed an array of accomplishments and broke many a barrier. She will always be remembered as the visionary who foresaw a brighter future for every aspiring female cricketer.

Specials – Cricket’s Christmas XI

  The silly season is upon us, and in keeping with the festive spirit, let us look at a team of eleven first-class cricketers with names having a Christmas connection. Here’s presenting our all-time Christmas XI.

1) Jacques Rudolph

  He may not be red-nosed, but South African southpaw Jacques Rudolph is an apt choice to form one half of our opening pair. Having promised much after scoring an unbeaten 222 on Test debut at Chittagong in 2003, he eventually went on to have a middling international career that saw its last in 2012. He is currently captain of Glamorgan on the English county circuit.

2) Noel McGregor

  Otago veteran Spencer Noel McGregor was part of the first New Zealand team to win a Test match, against the West Indies at Auckland in 1955-56. Six years later, he scored a crucial 68 in New Zealand’s first away win, in Cape Town. With a name that translates to quite a few Christmas-related connotations, he has earned his place in the side. 

3) Ian Bell (captain)

  It has been a year since Ian Bell went out of favour with the England think-tank, but nothing can take away his contributions in the past decade. Be it the match-winning ton at Durban in 2009-10 or his exemplary batting in the 2013 Ashes, this Bell has often taken a toll on the opposition. His experience as Warwickshire’s captain makes him the right candidate to lead the Christmas XI.

christmas-cricket                   ‘Tis the season to be jolly (source – southgatecc.com) 

4) Mark Nicholas

  The Santa of our team is Mark Nicholas, who is renowned today for being a popular television commentator. He was the captain of Hampshire from 1985 to 1995 and one of their middle-order mainstays during that period. Though he never played for England, he had the satisfaction of scoring more than 18,000 runs in first-class cricket.

5) Marcus North

  Until his retirement in 2014, Marcus North provided a valuable all-round option to many a first-class side – he played for Western Australia as well as five English counties. He had a dream start to his short Test career, scoring a match-winning 117  at Johannesburg in 2008-09, and also ensured that his name was put up on the neutral honours board at Lord’s a year later.

6) Tony Frost (wicketkeeper)

  The wicketkeeping duties for the Christmas XI lie with bespectacled Tony Frost, who played for Warwickshire from 1997 to 2009. He was a dependable batsman as well; his career-best of 242* coming against Essex at Chelmsford in 2008, a season in which he successfully returned from a retirement announced two year back.

7) Billy Midwinter 

  The winter solstice (midwinter) falls a few days before Christmas. Born in England, all-rounder Billy Midwinter migrated to Australia, for whom he played in the inaugural Test and had the distinction of bagging Test cricket’s first fifer. He went on to play for England as well. He was famously kidnapped by WG Grace, who wanted him to play for Gloucestershire rather than the Australians, in 1878.

8) John Snow

  Leading the bowling attack is England’s John Snow, who was one of the finest fast bowlers in the world at his peak. He was at his best during the 1970-71 Ashes in Australia, where he finished with 31 wickets – 15 more than anyone else – at 22.83, including a searing, career-best 7/40 at Sydney. Caught-behind dismissals reading ‘c Frost, b Snow’ would surely make for fascinating viewing.

ian-bell

        England’s Ian Bell – the captain of the all-time Christmas XI (source – foxsports.com.au)

9) Ian Bishop

  The clergy gets its due in the form of Ian Bishop, the tall Trinidadian who would have ended with a lot more than 161 Test wickets if not for constant back troubles. He impressed early, taking 6/87 against India in only his second Test. His best display came at Perth in the decider of the 1992-93 Frank Worrell Trophy, where he took 6/40 in the second innings to bowl the West Indies to an innings win.

10) Paul Wiseman

  The Christmas XI can certainly afford a wise man, if not three. The lead spin bowler of our team is offie Paul Wiseman, who starred on Test debut by taking seven wickets to help New Zealand win at Colombo in 1998. He however played second fiddle to Daniel Vettori throughout his career, and was not picked after 2004-05.

11) Jo Angel

  Rounding off the eleven is Jo Angel, a 6’6″ tall fast bowler who collected 419 wickets – currently the fourth-highest tally in the history of the Sheffield Shield – for Western Australia from 1991-92 to 2003-04. He could not translate his first-class consistency at the highest level though, and played only seven times in all for Australia.

Honorary mention: It would be a disservice to conclude this post without a reference to David Christmas, a medium pacer who played 14 List A matches for Lincolnshire from 1991 to 2004. He is, rather unsurprisingly, nicknamed ‘Father’. 

  Season’s greetings to one and all.

Specials – Best of the Tests: New Zealand v Pakistan

  Pakistan’s 13th Test tour of New Zealand is underway, with the first of two Tests having been played at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch. New Zealand has been a happy hunting ground for Pakistani teams over the years – prior to the start of the ongoing series, they have won ten and lost five of the 29 Tests they have played there.

  Overall, the two sides have met 53 times, with Pakistan winning 24 matches to New Zealand’s eight. New Zealand have won only two series against Pakistan, and the latest of them came 32 years ago. In this post, we relive five of the best Test matches played between the two teams, in chronological order.

Third Test, Dunedin, 1984-85

  Pakistan had beaten New Zealand at home in December 1984, and found themselves southbound for a return series the very next month. New Zealand were up 1-0 coming into this final Test of the rubber at Carisbrook. The second Test at Auckland had seen the debut of Wasim Akram, who would go on to become the most successful visiting bowler in New Zealand.

  Pakistan’s first-innings total of 274 was built around a third-wicket stand of 141 between Qasim Umar (96) and captain Javed Miandad (79). The last eight wickets fell for just 33, with Richard Hadlee (6/51) doing the bulk of the damage. 18-year-old Wasim then showed the first glimpse of his fast bowling prowess, taking 5/56 to help bowl New Zealand out for 220.

  Umar top-scored for the visitors in the second dig as well, compiling  a solid 89 that aided in a recovery from 76/4 to 223. Set 278 to win, New Zealand were in disarray at 23/4 as the top order caved in to Wasim. Martin Crowe (84) and Jeremy Coney staged a remarkable comeback, putting on 157 for the fifth wicket.

  Yet, at 228/8, Pakistan were in pole position to level the series. Coney, who remained unbeaten on a lionhearted 111, and Ewan Chatfield however put paid to the visitors’ hopes – they added 50* to script a two-wicket win for their side. Wasim grabbed 5/72 to return a haul of 10/128 and earned the man of the match award. This remains New Zealand’s only series win at home against Pakistan.

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       Waqar Younis (left) and Wasim Akram combined to bowl Pakistan to a sensational win at Hamilton in 1992-93 (source – wellpitched.com)

Only TestHamilton, 1992-93

  A brilliant exhibition of pace bowling handed Pakistan an extraordinary victory in this one-off Test at Seddon Park. New Zealand started on a bright note – they reduced Pakistan to 12/3 after winning the toss. Skipper Miandad came to the rescue with 92, with the eventual total being a respectable 216. Left-arm pacer Murphy Su’a returned a career-best 5/73.

  In reply, the hosts rode on a sedulous century from opener Mark Greatbatch. He showed great application, batting for seven hours in making 133 – more than half of the team total of 264 – and shared in an opening stand of 108 with Blair Hartland. Wasim and Waqar Younis served an appetiser of what was still to come, by sharing seven wickets between them.

  Bolstered by New Zealand’s valuable lead of 48, Danny Morrison (5/41) jolted the top order early on the third day. Inzamam-ul-Haq rose to the challenge, as he uplifted his team from the pits of 39/5 with a pugnacious 75. His partnership with Rashid Latif, worth 80 for the sixth wicket, carried Pakistan to 174. New Zealand faced a routine target of 127 with more than two days left.

  Wasim ensured that the chase had a dicey start, as he pinched three cheap wickets to leave New Zealand at 39/3 at the end of day three. As the fourth day commenced after a rain delay, Andy Jones and Adam Parore battled to take the score to 65/3 before Younis removed the former. Wasim soon sent Parore back, and suddenly the road to the target was looking arduous.

  From that point onward, it was mayhem – Wasim (5/45) and Waqar (5/22) combined to produce a breathtaking effort, rendering the Kiwis helpless with their combative pace and deadly swing. New Zealand lost 7 for 28 to capitulate to 93 all out; Mr. Extras top-scoring with 22. Waqar, playing his 20th Test, also reached the 100-wicket mark wickets during his spell.

Third Test, Christchurch, 1993-94

  Pakistan had already secured the series after comprehensive wins at Auckland and Wellington. The two Ws – Wasim and Waqar – proved to be New Zealand’s nemeses yet again in the first two Tests, bagging 20 and 11 wickets respectively. However, New Zealand salvaged pride at Lancaster Park, achieving a record five-wicket win early on the final day.

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         Bryan Young (left) and Shane Thomson struck maiden centuries in New Zealand’s highest successful run chase, at Christchurch in 1993-94 (source – odt.co.nz)

  Openers Saeed Anwar (69) and Aamir Sohail (60) laid a strong platform for Pakistan by adding 125 runs, before Basit Ali (103) continued the good work, racing to his first and only Test hundred. The visitors accumulated a robust 344 on the board and New Zealand had their task cut out.

  The hosts were going well at 109/1 with Andrew Jones (81) looking in fine fettle, but Waqar, not for the first time, inspired a collapse that gave Pakistan a first-innings cushion of 144. The ‘Burewala Express’ sped to a return of 6/78. Pakistan themselves folded for 179 on the third day, failing to recover from 53/4 despite Basit’s 67. Morrison took 4/66, extending his match analysis to 8/171.

  New Zealand were thus set 324 to win with more than two days still available. Opener Bryan Young dropped anchor at one end, but Pakistan were firm favourites at 133/4. Shane Thomson came in at number six, and went on to share in a match-winning partnership of 154 with Young. Both ultimately reached their maiden Test hundreds.

  While Young was out for 120, Thomson remained unbeaten on the same score, steering New Zealand to their highest successful Test chase. They played contrasting innings – Young batted for nearly seven hours, soaking the pressure, whereas Thomson struck at 72 runs per 100 balls. The duo adeptly negated the threat of Wasim and Waqar and were successful in denying Pakistan a clean sweep.

First Test, Lahore, 1996-97

  New Zealand began the series with a rare success in Pakistan – they had won only once before in the country, which was also at the Gaddafi Stadium, during their first ever series win in 1969-70. Moreover, they ended a barren run of 15 winless Tests – eight defeats and seven draws – over the last two years.

  Wasim, who was now the captain, missed the match due to a shoulder injury and Saeed Anwar took over in his stead. Lee Germon called correctly, but his team’s batsmen could not cope with the low bounce of the pitch. New Zealand crashed to 83/6 and on to 155 all out, with Waqar and leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed taking four wickets apiece.

  However, towards of the first day, New Zealand were right back in the contest after having reduced the hosts to 37/5. Medium pacer Simon Doull was the wrecker-in-chief as he made short work of the the top order, eventually ending with figures of 5/46. A spunky 59 from Moin Khan revived the innings to an extent and ensured a narrow lead of 36 for his team.

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     Shane Bond dismisses Mohammad Yousuf caught and bowled at Dunedin in 2009-10. New Zealand won by 32 runs (source – wikiwand.com)

  In the second innings, New Zealand were in a worrying position of 101/5 early on the third day. Ahmed was proving to be difficult to negotiate, until Chris Cairns joined Stephen Fleming. They stitched together 141 for the sixth wicket to turn the game. Fleming scored 92*, while Cairns hit 93 at better than a run a ball. When on seven, Cairns was dropped by Inzamam at gully.

  New Zealand were bowled out for 311, with Ahmed taking 6/84 (10/143 in the match). Chasing 276, Pakistan were on the mat at 46/5 by stumps, which became 60/6 on day four. Debutant Mohammad Wasim gave his side some hope, scoring 109* from number seven. But he could not find enough support and Pakistan lost by 44 runs. Dipak Patel took 4/36 while Doull ended with 8/85 in the match.

First Test, Dunedin, 2009-10

  The University Oval witnessed an exciting Test match that had its share of twists and turns. Pakistan’s pace attack had done well to have New Zealand at 211/6, before Brendon McCullum (78) and captain Daniel Vettori (99) took charge with a seventh-wicket stand worth 164. Earlier, Martin Guptill (60) and Ross Taylor put on 117 for the third wicket.

  These efforts enabled New Zealand to swell their total to 429. Pakistan began poorly in reply, slipping to 85/5 courtesy some fine bowling from speedster Shane Bond (5/107). 19-year-old Umar Akmal, who went on to score a breezy 129 on debut, joined forces with his elder brother Kamran (82) and the pair added a vital 176 for the sixth wicket, boosting Pakistan’s total to 332.

  Pakistan’s pacemen delivered timely blows in the second innings as well, and this time there was no lower-order fightback. Only Taylor (59) showed up as New Zealand were bundled out for 153 early on the final day, thus setting up an interesting chase. Mohammad Asif took 4/43, giving himself 8/151 in the match. Pakistan required 251 for victory.

  Bond and Chris Martin had Pakistan at 24/3 before Umar Akmal (75) put his hand up again. He shared in stands of 71 with captain Mohammad Yousuf for the fourth wicket and 66 with Shoaib Malik for the fifth. But at 195/5, he was caught and bowled by Bond (who had a match haul of 8/153 in what was his last Test). The last five wickets fell for just 23, leaving New Zealand victors by 32 runs.

Specials – Best of the Tests at the Bellerive Oval

  Tasmania got its first taste of Test cricket in December 1989, when Hobart’s Bellerive Oval hosted the second Test between Australia and Sri Lanka. Since then, the ground has been an occasional fixture on the Australian Test calendar, having hosted a total of 12 Tests – four against New Zealand, three each against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and two against the West Indies.

  Australia’s record at the ground, which is also known as the Blundstone Arena, is impressive – they have won nine games and lost just once. With South Africa – who are making their maiden appearance in Hobart – taking on the hosts in the second Test of their ongoing series, let us look back at five memorable matches played at this venue, in chronological order.

Australia v Sri Lanka, Second Test, 1989-90

  This match marked the Test debut of the Bellerive Oval, which had hosted an ODI each in the previous two seasons. Sri Lanka came into this final Test of the series on the back of a confidence-boosting draw at the Gabba, where they took the first-innings lead thanks Aravinda de Silva’s 167.

  Fast-medium pace bowler Rumesh Ratnayake produced an excellent spell of 6/66 as Australia were bowled out for 224 on the first day after being inserted by Arjuna Ranatunga. No batsman could manage a fifty. Sri Lanka crashed to 18/3 in reply before de Silva (75) joined forces with Roshan Mahanama (85) to share in a stand of 128 for the fourth wicket.

  However, the visitors lost their last six wickets for just 28, thus conceding a narrow lead of eight runs. After an eventful second day, Australia were 25/2 in their second innings and the match seemed to be heading towards an exciting conclusion. But the Australian batsmen had other ideas as they went about piling the runs in right earnest.

  While Mark Taylor (108) and captain Allan Border (85) added 163 for the fourth wicket to put their team in the driver’s seat, Dean Jones (118*) and Steve Waugh (134*) ensured that the innings went into overdrive mode with an unbroken sixth-wicket partnership of 260 at 4.5 an over. The declaration came at 513/5, leaving Sri Lanka with a target of 522.

  Sri Lanka put up a brave fight, but it was never going to be enough. Resuming the final day at 166/3, they were bowled out for 348 in the final session after losing their last four wickets for 16. De Silva, who was rightly named man of the series, starred again with 72, while Ravi Ratnayake top-scored with 75. Merv Hughes led the way for the hosts with 5/88.

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    The Bellerive Oval in Hobart has hosted 12 Test matches since 1989-90, of which Australia have won nine and lost only one (source – abc.net.au)

Australia v New Zealand, Third Test, 1997-98

  Australia had sealed the series with convincing wins at Brisbane and Perth, and nearly made it three out of three at Hobart. In what was a rain-affected Test, Australia totalled 400 after batting first. The cornerstone of the innings was a second-wicket stand of 197 between Matthew Elliott (114) and Greg Blewett (99). Mark Waugh chipped in with 81.

  With the match petering out to a draw, Stephen Fleming dangled the carrot in front of the Australians late on the fourth day. The New Zealand captain declared his team’s first innings at 251/6, in which Matthew Horne (133) was the standout performer with a maiden Test ton. Host captain Mark Taylor himself declared at 138/2 at lunch on the final day.

  Two sessions now remained in the match, with New Zealand needing 288 runs to win and Australia ten wickets. The Kiwis got off to a flyer, with openers Horne and Nathan Astle blasting 72 off 52 balls. It was too good to last though, as the score quickly slid to 95/4. Shane Warne was coming into his own and the visitors thought it wise to give up their victory hopes.

  Adam Parore and Roger Twose had almost steered their team to safety with a seventh-wicket stand of 66, but a final twist was in store. Three wickets fell for six runs and New Zealand had only one wicket in the bank with 38 minutes to play. A whitewash was narrowly averted as the last pair of Simon Doull and Shane O’Connor defied the wiles of Warne (5/88), the innings ending at 223/9.

Australia v Pakistan, Second Test, 1999-00

  After clinching a ten-wicket win in the series opener, Australia looked certain to lose before an amazing last-day fightback from Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist gave them a famous win. Steve Waugh inserted Pakistan in and his bowlers did not disappoint, limiting the total to 222. Opener Mohammed Wasim made an attacking 91.

  In reply, Australia were in a commanding position at 191/1 with Michael Slater (97) and Langer (59) in ominous form. But Pakistan somehow conjured a comeback, guided by off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq (6/46). Australia were dismissed for 246, losing their last eight wickets for 40.Pakistan then took control of the game with a solid batting display in the second innings.

  Saeed Anwar (78) took charge at the top before Inzamam-ul-Haq (118) and Ijaz Ahmed (82) put on 136 for the fourth wicket. Shane Warne (5/110) bowled impressively, but Pakistan went on to score 392. Australia needed 369 to win the Test and the series, which looked a distant dream when they fell to 126/5 on the fourth evening.

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      Playing only his second Test, Adam Gilchrist smashed 149* off 163 balls to help Australia chase down 369 against Pakistan in 1999-00 (source – yahoocricket)

  They began the final day at 188/5 and Pakistan were well on top. But the overnight batsmen, Langer and Gilchrist, were not deterred and went on to add a record 238 runs for the sixth wicket. While Langer made a solid 127, it was Gilchrist’s assault that jolted Pakistan. The wicket-keeper cracked an unbeaten 149 off 163 balls – a marvellous knock given the situation.

  The Australians eventually reached 369/6 – then the third-highest fourth-innings victory chase – as Pakistan were left to rue their misfortune. There was controversy early on the final morning, when Langer appeared to have been wrongly reprieved following a caught-behind appeal off captain Wasim Akram. Australia went on to sweep the series 3-0.

Australia v Sri Lanka, Second Test, 2007-08

  Australia won the two-Test series 2-0, but not before Sri Lanka made a valiant attempt to chase down a massive target. The home batsmen put the Sri Lankan bowling attack to the sword after winning the toss, amassing 542/5 before Ricky Ponting decided that they had batted enough.

  Opener Phil Jaques struck a career-best 150, and was involved in a third-wicket partnership of 152 with Michael Hussey, who made 132. Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist hit brisk fifties to further put Sri Lanka under the pump. Captain Mahela Jayawardene stood up to the task by scoring 104, but his side faced a deficit of 296 after the first innings.

  Australia opted to bat again and galloped to 210/2, declaring before lunch on the fourth day. Marvan Atapattu (80) and Kumar Sangakkara showed resolve in pursuit of an unlikely 507, as they put on 143 for the second wicket. Sangakkara was looking in great touch and ended the day at 109*, Sri Lanka’s score reading 247/3.

  Australia, hungry for their 14th successive Test match win, wrested the initiative on the fifth day, sparking a collapse to send Sri Lanka from 265/3 to 290/8 even as Sangakkara batted on with assurance. The ninth wicket fetched 74 runs, as Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga engaged in an entertaining counterattack.

  Only a poor umpiring decision stopped Sangakkara from reaching his seventh double hundred, as he was adjudged out for a brilliant 192 after the ball deflected from his shoulder and hit the helmet before being snapped in the slips. Sri Lanka were eventually dismissed for 410. Brett Lee, who was named man of the match and series, finished with 4/87, taking his match figures to 8/169.

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     Doug Bracewell celebrates a wicket at Hobart in 2011-12 even as David Warner looks on. New Zealand won a thriller by just seven runs (source – pakistantoday.com.pk)

Australia v New Zealand, Second Test, 2011-12

  Coming into this match, Australia were favourites to take the rubber after an easy nine-wicket win in the first Test. Michael Clarke had no hesitation in putting New Zealand in to bat on a grassy wicket. The hosts’ pace trio of James Pattinson (5/51), Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc proceeded to destroy New Zealand’s top order – they crashed to 60/6 in the first session itself.

  Dean Brownlie stemmed the rot with a gutsy 56 from number six. He shepherded the tail and was the only one to cross 20. The innings wound up at 150 before the first day ended prematurely due to rain, Australia being 12/1. The second day was again dominated by the bowlers as the Australian batsmen failed to cope with the visiting bowlers’ pace and swing. 

  The batting order imploded as the score slid to 75/7. Chris Martin, Trent Boult and Doug Bracewell took three wickets each. It took a 56-run stand for the eighth wicket between Siddle and Pattinson to revive the final total to 136. With New Zealand leading by just 14, the Test was now akin to a second-dig shootout. They lost their top three with 73 on the board in the second innings.

  Captain Ross Taylor steadied the ship, scoring 56. From 171/4, New Zealand regressed to 226 all out, which left Australia with seven sessions to score 241. By stumps on the third day, openers Phil Hughes and David Warner cruised to 72/0, thus providing the perfect start to the chase. At 159/2 and with Warner and Ricky Ponting in the middle, the game was Australia’s to lose.

  However, 21-year-old Bracewell, playing only his third Test, went on to bowl a game-changing spell. He finished with 6/40, scalping Ponting, Clarke and Michael Hussey – the latter two in successive balls – even as Warner fought on. Three wickets had fallen for no run and the game was wide open. Except for Warner, no batsman crossed 23.

  Another catastrophic slide from 192/5 to 199/9 seemed to be the final blow for the hosts. But Warner, who carried his bat in vain for 123 off 170 balls, and Lyon added 34 to ignite hope among the spectators before Bracewell castled Lyon with tea approaching to script a seven-run win for New Zealand – their first against Australia in 19 years.