Record-breaking Zimbabwe debutant Gary Ballance frustrated West Indies by becoming only the second batter to score a Test century for two countries on Tuesday.

The former England left-hander struck 137 not out on day four of the first Test at Queens Sports Club, where Zimbabwe declared on 379-9 and the Windies closed on 21-0 – leading by 89 runs.

Ballance made four hundreds for England in 23 matches in the longest format, the last of which came against West Indies in April 2015.

The 33-year-old signed a two-year contact with Zimbabwe Cricket last December, having been granted a release from his Yorkshire contract after a challenging period in which he endured struggles with his mental health.

Zimbabwe-born Ballance last year admitted to using racist and offensive language towards his Yorkshire team-mate Azeem Rafiq.

Rafiq said he had accepted an apology from Ballance, who was suspended for an indefinite period from England selection.

He played three white-ball matches for his country of birth last month and now has the highest score by a Zimbabwe Test debutant, beating the previous record of 121 set by Dave Houghton – the team's current coach.

Kepler Wessels is the only other player to have made hundreds for more than one country in the longest format, reaching three figures for South Africa and Australia.

 

Jack Leach feels he belongs in England's Test team as he returns to New Zealand for the first time since he was seriously ill on the 2019 tour.

The bowler, who suffers from Crohn's disease, contracted sepsis four years ago after a bout of food poisoning, and subsequently struggled to hold down a red-ball place.

But back at full fitness, Leach was the third-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket in 2022 with 46, behind only Australia's Nathan Lyon and South Africa's Kagiso Rabada.

Ahead of England's two-match series later this month, Leach acknowledged he had fears about returning to New Zealand, but that he feels secure now in his place with Ben Stokes' side, which has helped hugely.

"I was on a drip and had antibiotics in the other arm [last time I was here]," said Leach, who reached 100 Test wickets in Pakistan at the end of the year.

"It slowly got worse and worse. I was really struggling for a bit. It wasn't great, but that's all in the past now. I'm having too much fun to get ill now.

"It can be stress-related, so maybe being a little bit more relaxed is actually helping that side of my health as well. Fingers crossed it stays that way.

"I always felt like cricket was an individual sport within a team, but this feels like such a team.

"It's something I feel very lucky to have experienced because it's a lot more enjoyable.

"It's been probably the most important thing for me, that backing and feeling like I belong.

"I'm just trying to enjoy it as much as I can and do as much as I can for the team."

Cameron Green looks set to miss Australia's first Test against India, with vice-captain Steve Smith suggesting it will be unlikely the all-rounder features in Nagpur.

Green suffered a fractured finger during the Boxing Day Test with South Africa in December, and has not played a first-class match since then.

He sustained a further knock to the injury while in a training camp ahead of Thursday's opening match, casting further doubt on his participation.

Now, Smith has indicated it will be a long shot for Green to feature at Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, with the tourists reluctant to rush him back into the fray.

"I don't think he is [going to play]," he said. "I don't think he has even faced fast bowlers. So I dare say he won't be playing.

"Who knows [though]? I'm not entirely sure. We'll wait and see. But it's unlikely, I think."

Having eschewed a warm-up game ahead of the four-match series, Australia will be heading into their clash in Nagpur with only a few days on Indian surfaces under their belt.

Smith is reluctant to speculate how the pitch will affect his side's selections when it comes to their bowling attack, adding: "It's pretty dry.

"There's a section that's quite dry. Other than that, I can't really get a good gauge on it. I don't think there will be a heap of bounce in the wicket.

"I think for the seamers, it will be quite skiddy and maybe [have] a bit of up-and-down movement as the game goes on. The cracks felt quite loose. We'll wait and see when we get out there."

Steve Smith believes a series triumph in India would represent a bigger achievement for Australia than winning the Ashes.

Australia begin a four-match tour of India in Nagpur on Thursday, as they bid to win three successive men's Test series for the first time since doing so between November 2015 and February 2016.

The tourists are under no illusions as to the size of the task awaiting them in India, with their hosts only losing one of their last 15 Tests on home soil against Australia (W11 D3).

Having helped Australia to a crushing 4-0 series win over old rivals England in the last Ashes series in 2021-22, Smith believes a successful tour of India would beat that achievement.

"I think if we could win in India, that'd be bigger than an Ashes series," Smith told cricket.com.au.

"It's a difficult place to win a Test match, let alone a series, so if we were able to topple that mountain, it would be huge."

Team-mate David Warner echoed Smith's thoughts, saying: "Being a part of that last Ashes was fantastic, but to go to India and beat India is the toughest challenge in Test cricket for us.

"I'm really looking forward to the tour, it's always a hard graft and one thing I'm looking forward to is applying myself against the best spinners in the world."

While India have claimed victory in six of their last eight red-ball series against Australia, the tourists enter Thursday's first contest in excellent form, topping the world Test rankings and boasting a collective batting average of 46 since the start of 2022, the best of any team in that time.

Captain Pat Cummins also believes a series win in India would rank among the team's finest achievements, adding: "Winning a series in India is like an away Ashes series, but even more rare.

"I think that really is a career highlight, an era-defining series, if you can win one over there. So that's our opportunity and we can't wait.

Usman Khawaja "went Usain Bolt" to make his flight to India after a series of hold-ups delayed the batsman's departure from Australia ahead of this week's first Test.

Khawaja was forced to remain in Brisbane after not receiving a visa in time to make his scheduled flight last week, before two delayed flights further frustrated his bid to reach India. 

The batter was eventually forced to race through Delhi Airport to make the final leg of his journey to Bangalore, where he met up with his Australia team-mates ahead of the four-Test tour.

"I went Usain Bolt trying to make my connection," Khawaja told cricket.com.au. "I somehow got on that flight – the last flight of the whole night – and got here. 

"From the time I left Melbourne to here it was 24 hours. That's just life, you just have to deal with it. It's no biggie, I'm here now and ready to go."

While the delay meant Khawaja only managed a single training session before Australia departed for Nagpur ahead of the first Test starting on Thursday, he does not believe it will have an impact when the series gets under way.

He also shrugged off David Warner's claim of being "exhausted" ahead of the tour, saying: "Trying to get on seven different flights to get to India, then get here – we're all tired, we're all fatigued.

"That's just part and parcel of being a cricketer. Once you're on the field, it's just game on. It's the same with Davey.

"I've scored runs a lot of times when I have been tired and fatigued, you just have to find a way sometimes. I'm sure Davey will find a way."

India have only lost one of their last 15 men's Tests at home to Australia, while their current run of three successive series triumphs against the Aussies is the longest in their history.

However, Australia have only lost one of their last 10 Test series (W7 D2), and they could rack up three consecutive series wins for the first time since February 2016.

Tagenarine Chanderpaul scored his maiden Test century and Captain Kraigg Brathwaite scored his 12th as the West Indies closed another rain shortened second day in the first Test against Zimbabwe on 221-0 at Bulawayo.

The West Indies had resumed from their overnight score of 112-0 with both batsmen on 55.

In the 48 overs possible on Sunday because of a wet outfield caused by heavy downpour on Saturday, the 26-year-old Chanderpaul, playing in only his third Test, progressed to score 101 not out.

His 100 came up off 296 balls and included 10 fours and a six. It was the first time since 2013 that a West Indies opener other than Brathwaite had scored a Test century.

Brathwaite, meanwhile, had scored yet another century to be unbeaten on 116. His ton that included only seven fours came from 226 balls.

The 221-run opening stand marked the first time West Indies has put on a double-century opening partnership since 2012 and was just the 10th double century opening partnership in West Indies history and the seventh pair to do so.

The partnership was also the highest ever opening stand against Zimbabwe.

The 150-run stand came up in 67.2 overs while the 200-run partnership was achieved in 83.2 overs.

 

 

Josh Hazlewood's rotten luck with injuries has continued after he was ruled out of the opening Test between India and Australia.

Hazlewood, who has played only four Tests in the last two years, will not feature in Nagpur on Thursday due to an Achilles issue, with Scott Boland in line to play instead.

A side injury suffered against West Indies in November saw Hazlewood miss not only the second Test of that series, but also the first two matches against South Africa in December.

He returned for the final Test of that series, taking 5-57 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, but will now have to recover from another niggle.

Hazlewood joins fellow paceman Mitchell Starc in missing the first Test of the four-match India series, while all-rounder Cameron Green is also a doubt, meaning an overseas bow for Boland is likely.

Boland has taken 28 wickets across his six Test appearances.

Discussing the injury, Hazlewood said: "It's still lingering from the [Sydney] Test match [against South Africa].

"We obviously bowled after a lot of rain and the jump-offs were quite soft, where we were taking off from and they ended up replacing them as well.

"It sort of worked to a degree, but just that extra load jumping off a soft ground to bowl and again first Test match your body is not used to that sort of workload as well.

"So we thought we'd give it a few days here straight off the bat and try and get over the hump and have a bowl from Tuesday and hope it goes well."

Boland has the full backing of his team-mate, however.

"Scotty has bowled plenty at the MCG when it was a flat wicket, it probably wasn't swinging or reverse swinging so he knows how to work hard for a long period of time," Hazlewood said.

"You've got Lance Morris who has worked hard on reverse swing for the last month and then a nice lead in here with a few sessions.

"The guys are excited first of all to play in the subcontinent, they both haven't yet, but they're very well qualified to do so."

Australia head coach Andrew McDonald has revealed Cameron Green has an "outside chance" of being fit for the first Test against India as he recovers from a broken finger.

The all-rounder has made quick progress ahead of a first match of the four-match series that starts at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium next Thursday.

McDonald suggested Green may be selected as a specialist batter in Nagpur.

"He's made some significant steps forward in the last couple of days, probably to my surprise, so there's still an outside chance that everything going well he might be on the team sheet," McDonald told reporters in Alur on Saturday.

"I wouldn't say he was in discomfort with his bowling, one of the deliveries jarred the bottom of the bat and that can create discomfort for anyone but there's a little bit of awareness around that finger."

Paceman Mitchell Starc will not play in the opening Test after he sustained a damaged middle finger during the Boxing Day Test against South Africa at the MCG.

Australia captain Pat Cummins says no decision has been made on the team to take on India.

"I wouldn't say it [two spinners] is a given, it's very conditions dependent so particularly this first Test, once we get to Nagpur we'll see," Cummins said.

"I think sometimes talking about a couple of spinners you forget how good a lot of our fast bowlers have been in all conditions. Even some of the SCG wickets, there hasn't been a lot in them for quick bowlers but the quick bowlers have found a way.

"We've got plenty of bowling options here - finger spin, wrist spin, left-arm, Starcy when he comes back - so we'll obviously pick the bowlers we think can take 20 wickets, how we are going to split that up we aren't 100 per cent sure yet."

Usman Khawaja travelled to India on Thursday after a resolution was found to the visa problem that saw him left behind when Australia Test team-mates departed.

The top-order batter had been due to fly out with Australia's players and staff across Tuesday and Wednesday amid a series of staggered flights.

That did not come to pass, with Khawaja remaining in Sydney amid issues with his visa in relation to his roots in Pakistan, the country of his birth.

Khawaja, 36, was born in Islamabad, and this was not the first time he has encountered issues in attempting to enter India to play cricket.

Yet this delay was only a short one, with Khawaja able to make the trip on Thursday.

He posted a picture of himself on board an aeroplane in Australia team leisurewear, adding the hashtags #incoming and #khawajyenroute.

Australia and India are due to contest the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in the coming weeks.

The four-match Test series begins on February 9 at Nagpur's Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, with games in Delhi, Dharamshala and Ahmedabad to follow.

Khawaja has played multiple times in India in the past, including in the Indian Premier League with Rising Pune Supergiant in 2016, and scored two centuries during an ODI tour in 2019.

In 2011, however, Khawaja was blocked from securing a visa for the T20 Champions League for New South Wales before the Indian high commission intervened.

Australia will be thankful he is available this time, given Khawaja enjoyed a remarkable 2022, earning a recall to the red-ball squad and top-scoring with 496 runs during their first tour of Pakistan since 1998.

He was named in the ICC Test Team of the Year alongside team-mates Pat Cummins, Marnus Labuschagne and Nathan Lyon.

Khawaja was also named Australia's Test Player of the Year award this week, collecting the Shane Warne Award.

Australia batter Usman Khawaja is stranded in Sydney awaiting visa approval to join his team-mates for their Test tour in India this month.

The top-order batter was due to fly out with the rest of the squad across Tuesday and Wednesday amid a series of staggered flights.

But Khawaja remains in New South Wales amid issues with his visa in relation to his roots in Pakistan, the country of his birth.

The 36-year-old was born in Islamabad, and has had prior issues in attempting to enter India to play cricket.

In 2011, he was blocked from securing a visa for the T20 Champions League for New South Wales before the Indian high commission intervened.

Khawaja took to social media to poke fun at his situation shortly after his team-mates departed for India, where Australia are due to contest the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

He has played multiple times in the country in the past, including with IPL outfit Rising Pune Supergiant in 2016, and scored two centuries during an ODI tour in 2019.

Khawaja enjoyed a remarkable 2022, earning a recall to the red-ball squad where he top-scored with 496 runs during their first tour of Pakistan since 1998.

He was named in the ICC Test Team of the Year alongside team-mates Pat Cummins, Marnus Labuschagne and Nathan Lyon, as part of a leading four selections.

Australia begin their four-match Test series on February 9 at Nagpur's Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, with games in Delhi, Dharamshala and Ahmedabad to follow.

Steve Smith has backed Australia's call to skip a warm-up game ahead of their Test series in India, suggesting any match would offer insufficient preparation.

The tourists will play four matches starting in Nagpur next month, with games in Delhi, Dharamshala and Ahmedabad to follow.

But Pat Cummins' side will not play a tour game ahead of their red-ball series against their hosts, after their experiences on their last long-format visit six years ago.

On that occasion, Australia played out a draw with an India A side, but Smith feels the pitch they played on in Mumbai was too different to the rest of the tour.

"We normally have two tour games over in England. This time we don't have a tour game in India," he said in Sydney.

"The last time we went [to India], I'm pretty sure we got served up a green top [in the tour game], and it was sort of irrelevant.

"Hopefully, we get really good training facilities where the ball is likely to do what it's likely to do out in the middle, and we can get our practice in."

Australia are in pursuit of a first Test series win in India since 2004, having lost 2-1 in 2017 despite Smith posting 499 runs as top scorer.

Fresh from claiming a joint-record fourth Allan Border Medal, the former captain.hopes they can vindicate their decision to eschew a competitive warm-up.

"We'll wait and see when we hit the ground," he added. "I think we've made the right decision to not play a tour match.

"We're better off having our own nets and getting spinners in and bowling as much as they can."

Steve Smith has matched the feats of fellow Australia greats Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke by winning the Allan Border Medal for a record-equalling fourth time.

Smith – who also won the highest individual prize in Australian men's cricket in 2015, 2018 and 2021 – collected 171 votes from players, umpires and media for the 2023 award, comfortably clear of second-placed Travis Head with 144 votes.

Smith made 1,524 runs across all three formats during the voting period – the most by any Australia player, while only Marnus Labuschagne matched his tally of four centuries.

With the criteria for the award being weighted towards those who fare well in the longer formats, Smith's contribution to Australia winning eight of their 10 red-ball matches to rise to the top of the Test rankings went some way to putting him top of the pile.

While Ponting took the prize in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009, fellow four-time recipient Clarke triumphed in 2005, 2009, 2012 and 2013.

Meanwhile, David Warner won Cricket Australia's ODI Player of the Year award after finishing third in the voting for the Allan Border Medal, while Marcus Stoinis claimed the equivalent T20I prize. 

The men's Test Player of the Year award – named after Shane Warne for the first time following his death last March – was won by Usman Khawaja after he scored 1,020 runs at 78.46 throughout the voting period.

In the women's game, Beth Mooney claimed the Belinda Clark medal for the second time, having featured in Australia's successful 50-over World Cup campaign in New Zealand last year.

Pakistan captain Babar Azam has been named the ICC Men's Cricketer of the Year, while Ben Stokes landed the Test Cricketer of the Year award.

Babar was outstanding with the bat in 2022, scoring 2,598 runs in 44 matches at an average of 54.12 and raking up eight centuries.

The prolific right-hander was the only player to reach the 2,000 landmark in the calendar year across all formats and led his side to the T20 World Cup final, which they lost against England at the MCG in November.

It was the most successful year of Babar's career, earning him the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy. Babar was also named the Men's ODI Cricketer of the Year.

Stokes also enjoyed a year that he will never forget, making a huge impact after being appointed as England Test captain.

The all-rounder could not have wished for a better start to a new era with him as skipper and Brendon McCullum head coach, turning England's fortunes around with an incredible transformation in a short space of time.

England had won only one of 17 Tests when Joe Root stepped down, but secured series wins over New Zealand and South Africa, beat India in a rearranged Test and celebrated an unprecedented 3-0 whitewash of Pakistan away from home.

Stokes led the side brilliantly as an aggressive brand of cricket paid dividends, while the all-rounder produced another match-winning innings to seal a victory over Pakistan in the T20 World Cup final.

He scored 870 runs at an average of 36.25 last year and took 26 wickets at an average of 31.19.

India run machine Suryakumar Yadav is the Men's T20I Cricketer of the Year, having scored 1,164 runs in 31 matches at an average of 46.56 and a strike-rate of 187.43.

Nat Sciver also starred for England in 2022 and was on Thursday named as the winner of the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Trophy for the ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year.

All-rounder Sciver scored 1,346 runs and claimed 22 wickets from 33 international matches, starring as England were runners-up in the Women's Cricket World Cup 2022,

Sciver made a magnificent unbeaten 148 from only 121 in a defeat against Australia in the final.

Steve Smith will prepare for the Ashes and Australia's likely participation in the World Test Championship final by playing three County Championship games for Sussex.

The prolific batter will face Worcestershire and Leicestershire before coming up against Australia team-mate Marnus Labuschagne in a Division Two match against Glamorgan in May.

Smith, ranked as the second-best Test batter in the world behind Labuschagne, is then expected to feature in the World Test Championship final at The Oval in June – with Australia having all-but qualified.

The former Australia captain will hope a short spell with Sussex ensures he is in great touch by the time the first Ashes Test starts against England at Edgbaston on June 16.

Smith told Sussex's official website: "I am excited about joining Sussex for a few games in May and hopefully making a contribution to a successful season.

"I am particularly looking forward to working with the younger players in the squad and hoping I can provide some guidance to them."

The 33-year-old has previous experience of playing county cricket for Worcestershire.

Smith made a staggering 30th Test century in his last appearance for his country against South Africa at the SCG this month.

James Anderson has credited England Test captain Ben Stokes with "reinvigorating" his international career.

Less than a year after being surprisingly left of the tour of the West Indies, Anderson has reflected on his return to the England squad under Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum, who took over from Joe Root and Chris Silverwood last year.

The team has adopted an attacking mentality in that time, winning nine of their last 10 Test matches, and Anderson is looking forward to trying their new approach in the Ashes series later this year.

"It's exciting to be in this team. Whoever we play it's going to be fun, we're going to give it a good crack and Australia in the summer could just be incredible," he said.

"I can't see them doing anything but going toe-to-toe to be honest. I think they're going to fight fire with fire and that's going to make it so explosive and exciting.

"There is something wrong with you as a player if you didn't enjoy this way we're playing. It's constantly thinking and talking about the game in a positive way so, yes, it has reinvigorated me."

Anderson – who has played 177 Test matches, taking 675 wickets – also pointed to a moment that exhibited Stokes' leadership during the recent tour of Pakistan when the team was due to attend an audience with Prime Minister Shehbaz Shariz.

"He just went, 'the bowlers aren't going, they need to recover'. He's strong enough to do that," the 40-year-old said.

"I've always had him down as a lead-by-example guy. But he is just incredible, the emotional intelligence around the group, managing the players. I didn't know he had this side to him."

On his own return to the fold, Anderson said: "There was definitely a moment when I thought that could be it. There was a bit of anger and disappointment [at being left out of the West Indies tour].

"I was just trying to make sense of it and not make any rash decisions.

"I'm not the complete bowler. I've not played the perfect game or bowled the perfect over. There are always things I think I can iron out. I want to be best at everything I do; if I'm rubbish at something I'll just give it up."

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