Sri Lanka’s 2-0 series win over New Zealand now means that, if things don’t work out for South Africa against South Africa B England this winter, Kumar Sangakkara’s side could potentially end the year as the world’s top-ranked team if they win the series in India. If India were to win the series 2-0, then they would take the top spot.
India’s home record against Sri Lanka is impressive, with the tourists never having won a Test, but the side which is likely to tour will be very strong indeed. The emergence of Rangana Herath as a genuine spin threat in the series against the Black Caps means that there’s less dependence on Murali to constantly take wickets (which is handy, given Ajantha Mendis’ struggles), whilst the batting order has looked assured.
With almost two full years to go until the 2011 World Cup, qualification for the 2015 competition is already well underway, with the World Cricket League (sadly, unlike the World Soccer League, not featuring the Timborary Shamrocks) having reached the Division 6 stage in Singapore. Bahrain, Botswana, Malaysia, Guernsey, Norway and Singapore will all be competing for the two places available in Division 5, to be held in Nepal in early 2010.
Bahrain have already had to qualify for this stage, winning Division 7 back in May, due in no small part to the wickets taken (and the half-century scored in the final) by Qamar Saeed. As well as Saeed, Adil Hanif (the second-highest run-scorer in Division 7) will be key. Confidence will be high, but Bahrain have never faced most of the other sides in the competition, so it’s hard to say what reasonable expectations would be.
Botswana have prepared for the tournament with a training camp in Sri Lanka, and are apparently the fifth-best non-Test team in Africa, but that’s the sum of my knowledge of the game in Botswana, I’m afraid.
Guernsey, like Bahrain, qualified from Division 7, having been associate members of the ICC for less than a year at the time. Having enjoyed home advantage back in May, things will be harder this time around, but if Jeremy Frith can find form with the bat, then progression is possible.
Malaysia beat Singapore earlier this month in the Stan Nagaiah Trophy, which they will hope proves to be a good omen. The Malaysian side will be hoping that conditions will be in their favour, and that the likes of Thushara Kodikara and Suresh Navarathnam can inspire them to victory.
Norway dropped down to this level after finishing 9th in Division 5 last year, and will be hoping to bounce straight back with a strong showing this time around. Most of their players are of subcontinental origin, with the majority of Pakistani descent, but there are few if any names amongst their squad that mean anything to me.
Singapore are coached by Trevor Chappell, who hopefully won’t have encouraged the side to start bowling underarm. Home advantage may be crucial, but defeat to Malaysia in the build-up may have knocked the side’s confidence
There’s not much time for England’s cricketers to get over their Ashes hangovers (although that seems less of a problem this time) as they head off to Belfast for a One Day International against Ireland. Paul Collingwood resumes his role as stand-in captain whilst Strauss takes a rest, and of course both Pietersen and Flintoff are recovering from surgery, but the inclusion of Irishman and spell-check confusion-causer Eoin Morgan in the England side will guarantee a fair bit of ‘banter’, as Irish captain William Porterfield put it.
Far removed in many ways from the drama of the world’s most famous Test series, some extraordinary cricket has been taking place in Amstelveen. Twenty wickets fell on the first day of the Intercontinental Cup match between the Netherlands and Afghanistan, the Dutch managing to make 181 whilst the tourists made just 107 in reply.
Hamid Hassan and Mohammed Nabi took four wickets each for the Afghans (the latter for only 45 runs in a ball less than 18 overs), but their batsmen were soon 10/4 in reply on the sort of pitch that would have the average county Chief Executive waking up in cold sweats.
Tom de Grooth bucked the trend by making 54, which is probably worth about 200-odd on the sort of wicket Tests are usually played on these days.