Test Squad:Enzo Petit, Jean-Luc Chevalier (Vice-captain), Christophe Martinez, Zvonimir Pitko, Louis Petit, Zidane Thomas, Marwan Leroy (Wicketkeeper), Xavier Le Tallec (Captain), Paco Georges, Anthony Toure, Mehdi Qadri, Timothee Clement, Maxime Bernard (Wicketkeeper), Aymerric Gautier, Louis Martin, Thibaut Keller
Only Test: Abu Dhabi
France 220 (Thomas 59, E Petit 35, Leroy 26/Ahmad 3-37, Khan 3-22, Ahmadzai 2-43)
Afghanistan 150-4 (Alikhil 62*, Shah 39, Nabi 21*/Le Tallec 1-23, La Roux 1-29)
Lost by 6 wickets
Lost the series 2-1
T20I Squad: Hippolyte Gregory, Jean Luc Chevalier (Vice-captain), Zidane Thomas, Matteo Phillipe, Maxime Bernard, Christophe Martinez, Marwan Leroy (Wicketkeeper), Xavier Le Tallec (Captain), Louis Petit, Paco Georges, Phillipe La Roux, Zvonimir Pitko, Maurice Noe, Anthony Toure, Mehdi Qadri
Only T20I: Dubai
France 245-9 (L.Petit 65, Phillipe 54, Gregory 38, Martinez 26/ul-Haq 3-30, Ur Rahman 3-53, Khan 3-61)
A century on ODI debut for Maxime Bernard. Like Gregory he nearly didn’t get there but an epic last wicket stand of 71 with Anthony Toure (22*) elevated his and the team score. Had Zimbabwe played their reserves in the first two matches then maybe the series would’ve been more competitive.
Only Test: Nantes
France 247 (Le Tallec 75, Thomas 73, Georges 30/Mpofu 3-32, Ngarava 3-82, Raza 2-16)
Zimbabwe 241 (Masakadza 120, Taylor 51/Qadri 4-37, Toure 2-51)
France 117 (Chevalier 41, Thomas 22/Mpofu 5-47, Mavuta 4-29)
Zimbabwe 125-1 (Masakadza 83*, Taylor 25*/Qadri 1-22)
Lost by 9 wickets
We recovered from 41-5 in our first innings and they collapsed from 146-1 in theirs. As for our second innings… don’t ask! Having performed a clean sweep in the white-ball games, it was disappointing not to complete the set by winning the Test.
Next we head to Afghanistan for one Test, three ODIs and a single T20I with serious question marks hanging over our struggling batting line-up!
Disclaimer: Apologies but I just needed a break from full on match reports of every game!
In the one-off T20I against Australia in Sydney, we started in a way that encapsulated the hit and miss nature of our tour. Following a double mis-field off the first delivery off the match, we ran David Warner out without facing a ball! Australia had opted to bat but for the second Sydney innings in a row, Warner blobbed having made 140 in the first Test in Perth.
From 0-1 Australia hardly got going as we effected three run outs in the innings. Captain Xavier Le Tallec set astute field placings as we reduced the hosts to 82-8. A stand of 40 between McDermott (34*) and Behrendorff (21*) lifted Australia to a potentially competitive 122-8 from their 20 overs. Skipper Aaron Finch top scored with 38 meanwhile Le Tallec was outstanding with the ball, claiming figures of 3-17. Georges (1-26) and Petit (1-15) also struck.
Petit was unfortunate to have a chance dropped by wicketkeeper Maxime Bernard but the gloveman redeemed himself with a run out and catch soon after. The luckless Phillipe La Roux finished with figures of 3-0-23-0 that included 8 overthrows… would they prove costly? Zidane Thomas’s (3-0-25-0) struggles with the ball continued but Christophe Martinez’s leg spin was a revelation. The Reunion Islander conceded just 15 runs from three overs. We required just over a run-a-ball to claim our first ever limited overs victory and end a tough tour on a huge high note…
Jean-Luc Chevalier and Hippolyte Gregory started sensibly before Gregory feasted on Adam Zampa’s vegan leg-spin. Gregory struck each of Zampa’s first three deliveries over the ropes for 6 as Zampa conceded 31 from his first over. Credit to Zampa, who only conceded 34 from his next three overs but his performance was costly! Having helped compile 49 for the first wicket, Chevalier (15) top edged a pull off Jhye Richardson to wicketkeeper Alex Carey. It hasn’t all been roses on this tour for Chevalier but he’s got enough about him to be better for it.
Gregory went onto make a career best 35 from 28 deliveries before being bowled by Coulter-Nile with the score 90-2. The run flow stymied somewhat as Matteo Phillipe batted sensibly but possibly got a little bogged down. He’d made 7 from 17 balls when he reviewed an LBW against Glenn Maxwell. Phillipe, like the rest of us on the balcony, was spewing his supper when he was given out. This was despite the video evidence clearly confirming that he’d got bat on ball before being struck on the pad. He’d flown a long way for just 7 runs and desperately wanted to be there at the end.
From 108-3 the supremely composed Zidane Thomas finished a tough winter by edging the ball… time stood still as everybody turned their gaze… for four to seal our first ever white-ball win. Thomas finished 49 not out from 44 deliveries with Zvonimir Pitko undefeated on 3 alongside him. The Iceman Pitko was of course at the crease when we won our first Test. It’s hard not to feel sorry for Australia’s bowlers: Behrendorff (4-0-10-0), Coulter-Nile (4-0-13-1), Richardson (3.1-0-14-1), Maxwell (2-0-8-1)and Short (1-0-2-0) all of whom keep things tight but Gregory’s onslaught on Zampa won us the match. That’s not to undermine what was a consummate team performance with contributions throughout.
Australia skipper Aaron Finch was humble in defeat but didn’t regret choosing to bat first. We struck immediately and never let Australia get away from us then batted sensibly without a hint of panic when chasing an historic victory.
The home fans were superb and for our supporters who’d travelled all the way from Europe, it was a special moment to be shared by all. President Macron was on the phone immediately… he’s never shy to share any glory!
This winter hasn’t always been easy but we’ve won a Test in India and a T20I in Australia. We’re ahead of where we expected to be. Bring on the summer!
Following defeat in Perth we made two changes to the playing XI for the second Test in Sydney. Out went run shy middle order batsman Youssef Rizvi as well as anonymous pace bowler Louis Martin. In their place came middle order batsman Christophe Martinez and genuine express pace bowler Anthony Toure. Both were making their bow at Test level.
We lost the toss and were inserted to bat but made a fluent start courtesy of Jean-Luc Chevalier. After scores of just 10 and 1 in Perth, the left-hander raced to 25 before edging to slip off Hazlewood. Gilles Smith, who had batted so well in the second innings out west, then edged to Burns who spilled the chance. Sadly for Smith (2) his opposing namesake dived and caught the ball!
Debutant Martinez (5) played a couple of nice shots but he too fell to the rampant Hazlewood. Zvonimir Pitko (14), who made only 5 and 1 in Perth, then knuckled down alongside opener Enzo Petit (21). The duo lifted us from 37-3 to 76-3 but both soon fell to the relentless Hazlewood.
Wicketkeeper Marwan Leroy made only 2 before becoming Hazlewood’s sixth victim of the innings. Hazlewood’s analysis of 6-42 followed his first innings figures of 7-63 and ten-wicket match haul in Perth. As was the case in Australia’s west, Zidane Thomas and captain Xavier Le Tallec took the attack to the home bowlers. The pair raised us from 92-6 to 129-6 before Thomas (21) was caught in the outfield off Mitchell Starc. Paco Georges (0) couldn’t repeat his Perth heroics, seeing his stumps demolished by off-spinner Nathan Lyon first ball. Lyon (2-41) also accounted for Toure (8) before last man Mehdi Qadri joined his skipper. Qadri hung around long enough for Le Tallec (50) to register a second half-century of the series. The captain clubbed 50 from just 24 deliveries before Starc (2-34) returned to terminate the innings on just 163. It was another sorry showing with the bat.
Despite our underwhelming effort with the willow, we made a cracking start with the ball! Paco Georges found the edge of David Warner’s bat and the ball bulleted to Pitko at point. The Iceman held a sensational grab to send Perth centurion Warner back to the sheds without having troubled the scorers.
Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne put on 79 together but the latter in particular wasn’t always convincing. That said, he played some lovely shots before falling LBW for 47 to the unheralded medium pace of Enzo Petit. Petit (2-20) then doubled his Test wicket tally when he bowled the mighty Steven Smith for just 4. Australia had slipped from 80-1 to 92-3 but at the interval had reached 108-3.
In the first day’s final session Burns and Travis Head marched on. The duo took Australia into the lead on 177 when Georges returned to oust Head (45). The left-hander nicked to slip where Chevalier held a good high catch. Mitchell Marsh joined Burns who later reached his ton and the hosts closed day one on 228-4, already 65 ahead.
We made a fantastic start on day two as everything just clicked like you always hope it will. With just three runs added to the overnight score, Georges forced Marsh (21) to inside edge to Leroy. Then came a special moment for debutant Anthony Toure. The teenage tearaway had Paine (17) sensationally caught by the ever reliable Pitko at point. It was a wonderful moment for us all to share as Toure claimed his maiden Test wicket, that of the Australian captain at the SCG. He bowled much better than figures of 1-78 suggest. Georges then accounted for Cummins for a duck. The wicket was the result of a wonderful full delivery that Chevalier at first slip did magnificently to dive low to his left and grasp. Joe Burns then needlessly ran himself out for what had been a chanceless 135. All of a sudden Australia had lost four for 46 and been restricted to 277-8. Just when we had ambitions that we could mop the innings up, Starc and Hazlewood hung around and refused to be ousted. At lunch they’d passed fifty and lifted Australia to 330-8.
Eventually, after Starc and Hazlewood had combined for an enormously frustrating 85, Zvonimir Pitko (1-14) bowled Hazlewood (36) with only the second ball of a new spell. Starc (58*) reached a half-century but couldn’t prevent Paco Georges from claiming a five-wicket haul at the SCG. With the score on 381, Georges (5-126) angled a delivery across Lyon (11) who nicked behind to Leroy. We would commence our second innings 218 in the red.
We soon lost Chevalier (1) LBW in the first over to complete a miserable series with the bat (37 @ 9.25) for our vice-captain. Smith (2) then fell for said score for the second time in the match as Starc’s (2-13) double strike reduced us to 6-2.
Martinez resisted briefly and made a Test best 7 but hung his bat out when he needn’t and edged to Paine off Hazlewood (1-11). Then Petit (15) was turned inside out and superbly caught by Labuschagne at point off Cummins (1-24). We were in extreme peril at 31-4 but Pitko and Thomas did at least take us through to tea and the score upto 62-4.
Pitko and Thomas combined for 58 before Thomas (25) played one shot too many and was caught by Starc off the fortuitous Marsh. Leroy (0) was then caught by Paine off Lyon to complete a woeful series with the bat (0, 5, 2 & 0). Le Tallec (0) was stumped in the same over. The captain had scored fifties in the first innings of both Tests but failed to score in the second. Georges completed a pair to contrast his first Test fifty and five-wicket haul in this Test. Again it was the lucky Marsh (2-32) who gained a wicket. From the seeds of a fightback at 89-4 we’d whimpered to 91-8.
Pitko, who had struck a monstrous 131-metre six off Cummins, perished to Lyon for 31, the score now 97-9. Toure (1) then followed suit as Lyon bettered his first Test second innings figures of 4-5 by claiming a scarcely believable 4-4! That meant 97 all out having lost 6 wickets for 8 runs. The margin of defeat was an innings and 121 runs which was slightly worse than the first Test.
After the euphoria of our maiden Test match victory in India our tour of Australia has been a sobering one thus far. We’ve produced a couple of spells with the ball where we’ve ripped out a few Australian wickets quickly but never scored enough runs to truly compete. Gilles Smith’s 87 in Perth and Paco Georges’s 5-126 in Sydney are obvious highlights. Our captain Xavier Le Tallec also made two fifties and Zvonimir Pitko’s six that nearly traversed Sydney Harbour will live long in the memory. Now we switch gears for the solitary T20I preceded by a warm-up fixture.
Win the toss… check. Opt to bat… check. 75-6… that wasn’t in the script!
Following an uncomfortable tour game against Western Australia, we fronted up against the whole of the nation on the very same turf in Perth. Opening duo Jean-Luc Chevalier (10) and Enzo Petit (19) started steadily as ever, reaching 25-0 before the former was bowled through his legs by a sensational swinging delivery from Mitchell Starc (2-56). That prompted an ugly collapse as the terribly out of form pair of Gilles Smith (4) and Youssef Rizvi (11) as well as an out of sorts Petit, all fell to the short ball. Zvonimir Pitko (5) and Marwan Leroy (0), two young players who both came out of the India tour with their reputations enhanced, soon followed as ignominy awaited our side. Cue Zidane Thomas, who mustered only 17 runs @ 4.25 in the India Test series, an aggregate that included a tortuous 15-ball duck in his final innings. Having retained his place he stuck to his guns to score a swashbuckling and crowd-lifting 41 from just 34 balls. He compiled a fifty partnership with his skipper Xavier Le Tallec who led from the front himself.
The recalled Paco Georges, fresh from first innings figures of 5-52 on the very same deck only a few days earlier, then cavaliered his way to a pulsating 52 from only 27 deliveries. Off-spinner Nathon Lyon (1-46) copped some disdainful treatment from the tall left-hander meanwhile Mitchell Marsh (0-27), who claimed 11 wickets in the tour game, went wicketless. Tailenders Louis Martin (0) and Mehdi Qadri (1) didn’t last long but Le Tallec finished 59 not out to haul his side to 236. Having being 75-6 we’d recovered to 144-7 and 223-7 before subsiding rapidly to 236 all out. Josh Hazlewood (7-63) was tormentor in chief meanwhile Joe Burns claimed four catches.
Despite folding quickly at the end, our lower order and importantly our captain had dug deep to keep us competitive. Le Tallec, Thomas and Georges displayed guts and were unfazed by having their backs firmly against the wall. They attacked and cleared the ropes on numerous occasions but this wasn’t just slogging. The trio played their own game and made the right shot selection, something our top/middle order could learn form.
On that note, an anxious wait… awaited the woefully out of form Smith and Rizvi who would need to contribute scores of substance in the second dig to retain their places in the playing XI come Sydney.
In response to our batting efforts, Australia then raced to 194-0 during which time we dropped four catches… none of which the game allowed me to try and catch! This included two edges off part-timer Jean-Luc Chevalier’s first over, the first over after tea. When we eventually clung onto an edge from Burns (58) off Chevalier (1-28), it was actually dropped by wicketkeeper Leroy but the fielding circle did at last appear and Smith reacted at slip. ANNOYING/FRUSTRATING/INSERT AS APPROPRIATE!
Our luck turned however as captain fantastic Le Tallec (1-38) struck with his first ball, the first after drinks, to dismiss David Warner for a magnificent 140, Leroy holding a smart catch. Leroy then clung on once again when Georges (1-121) lured Labuschagne (18) to nick his first delivery having switched to bowling around the wicket. We then ran Steven Smith (20) out as Australia tried to run on overthrows. We should’ve then run out Marsh without scoring but threw to the wrong end. After his outstanding performance in the warm-up match however Marsh’s (4) disappointing Test continued when he edged Qadri (1-86) to Chevalier. Qadri then found the edge again, this time off Oz captain Paine. The ball deflected off Leroy to Smith at slip who got his fingers under the ball yet the decision was not out. Tim Paine and his team can spout about “Elite honesty” but if they don’t back up their talk then their words are hollow!
Paine and Head survived one more over to reach the close on 274-5, a lead of 38 but that was some collapse having being 194-0. As the players left the field there were heated exchanges between our incensed fielders and the Australian batsmen. As things threatened to boil over an enraged Le Tallec shepherded his herd away and with the TV cameras and mics listening in to every word, he demanded that his side wait until tomorrow to respond… with the ball! We’d fought back superbly… twice. Could we do it again?
There are people in this world who think that Test cricket is boring, people who wouldn’t ever give it the light of day. Well those people missed out on a day of epic drama, collapses and comebacks, ebbs and floes and a little controversy too in Australia’s far west. What were they doing instead?!
Despairingly day two began with any hopes we had of continuing our fightback soon shattered. Australia’s overnight pair set about causing us severe and prolonged head pain! Travis Head reached fifty off the last delivery of the old ball as he and captain Paine lifted the hosts to 354-5, a distant 118 runs ahead.
The new ball did the trick though not in the way we’d expected. Head, set on 52 and with the Paine partnership up to 93, was run out courtesy of a boundary throw from Enzo Petit. By lunch however Australia were up to 381-6, a lead of 145.
Paine ascended into the nineties and seemed destined for a ton before Zidane Thomas intervened. Thomas trapped the Australian captain deep in his crease but Paine opted to review. For a moment it looked like height might save the Tasmanian but he’d used up all his luck in the infancy of his innings. It would’ve been a hollow Test ton and the bitterest of pills for our team to swallow. Paine departed for 90 and Thomas (1-92) provided him with the farewell send off that he merited!
Despite the departure of their captain Australia batted on… and on… and on… messrs Cummins and Starc took them to tea on 504-7 with the lead having ballooned to a whopping 267. Eight deliveries after the interval, Australia declared on 507-7 with Cummins 57 not out and Starc undefeated on 40. The lead was up to 271.
In our quest to make our hosts at least bat again, we lost Chevalier for just 1 with the score on only 11. The left-hander unconvincingly edged Hazlewood to Smith in the slips. That brought the hugely under pressure Gilles Smith to the crease. Yet to make a fifty in nine Test innings, Smith needed nothing less in order to retain his place for the second Test in Sydney. Pressure… what pressure? He promptly smacked Mitchell Starc (0-72) all over the park. His innings included a 97-metre 6 that nearly landed in the Indian Ocean! He passed fifty for the first time at the highest level and when stuck on 60 for almost half an hour, didn’t panic. He defended, left then eventually got going again. He did the same again when pausing on 84. All the while Enzo Petit, like Smith, kept the pull and hook shots in his locker to keep the Australian bowlers at bay. Petit’s innings was more attritional than Smith’s but it displayed classic Test match opening batting application and temperament. At the close the pair had compiled a partnership worth 126, Petit resolute on 28 and Smith sleeping a little uncomfortably on 86. Placed at 137-1 we still required a further 134 to make Australia bat again but once more we’d shown great heart and fight.
Australia commenced day three by providing byes and overthrows to help the partnership grow to 136 but soon made a breakthrough. With only nine minutes on the clock, Petit (33) defended a short delivery from Cummins but edged high to Smith in the slips and his 80-ball vigil had reached its conclusion. The score was 147-2 and the fall of wicket brought Youssef Rizvi, sweating over his place in the team, to the crease. Rizvi got off the mark first ball but to the next delivery Smith, like Petit, defended only to nick behind, this time to gloveman Paine. The Australian captain claimed the catch high above his head. Only ten minutes on the clock and all the previous day’s hard work was rapidly unraveling courtesy of Cummins’ (2-23) short stuff. Smith (87), trudged forlornly back to the pavilion. 148-2 still 123 behind. The century he had spent the night dreaming of remained just that… a dream!
Australia soon replaced spinner Nathan Lyon with paceman Josh Hazlewood and Zvonimir Pitko promptly became the third wicket to fall in the space of twelve minutes. Like Petit and Smith before him, he was at least trying to defend a ball that posed a question but Paine dived to his right to pouch another catch. Scores of just 5 and 1 in the match for The Iceman and 147-1 had slipped to 149-4. Next up Zidane Thomas resisted for a few minutes but then couldn’t, err… resist! The right-hander top edged a pull off Hazlewood into the grateful hands of Smith. 155-5 and Marwan Leroy striding to the crease on a pair. It would be Youssef Rizvi (5) who fell next however. His cluttered mind coming to the fore as be needlessly attacked Lyon and was bowled around his legs. In that moment, Rizvi knew that his responsibilities in Sydney would be limited to ferrying beverages. Having started the India tour with a First Class ton and Test fifty the runs have since evaporated for the diminutive dasher. Back to things at hand and we were floundering at 156-5 having lost five wickets for just nine runs!
Make that 9-6 as Le Tallec (0) joined the procession! The skipper played an unnecessary and ugly hoik off Lyon that was snaffled by Hazlewood. It was a poor end to a proud performance on his part. Leroy and Georges fought back with a whopping partnership of … 11 before Georges (4) went skyward off Lyon and into the hands off the waiting Warner. 167-8 still 104 away from avoiding an innings defeat. Three balls later Leroy (5) prodded forward off the roaring Lyon into the gleeful hands of the fielder positioned at silly point. 147-1 had become 167-9! Moments later Qadri (1) top edged to Warner off Hazlewood (4-33) and we’d lost nine wickets for just 21 runs. 147-1 had ignominiously subsided to 168 all out. All the character and guts we’d displayed up to that point had vanished. The margin of defeat an innings and 103 runs. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon finished with astonishing figures of 4-5!
On behalf of the team I’d like to apologise for the inexcusable nature of the batting collapse. Take nothing away from the opposition but our display on day three shaded all the progress, fight and never say die attitude that we’d shown on the first two days. Some players will pay with their places. Multiple changes will be made to the playing XI come Sydney!
Following our ground-breaking success in the mountains, we named an unchanged side for the second Test on a dust bowl in Delhi. We lost the toss and as was the case in Doon, were inserted to field first. India progressed rapidly to 43-0 but we really should’ve taken a wicket. Louis Martin, brimming with confidence after his second innings figures of 3-91 in the Himalayas, executed a ferocious short ball that Rohit Sharma couldn’t resist. The trap was set but Zidane Thomas, stationed at fine leg, neglected to commit to the catch. Thomas soon made amends however when he caught Sharma (20) dawdling out of his crease and effected an extremely cheeky run out. Cheteshawara Pujara, fresh from striking a century in the first Test, made 21 before edging spinner Mehdi Qadri to Gilles Smith at slip. Despite losing two wickets, India had clocked up 109 runs by lunch.
Just three deliveries after the interval, Qadri was it it again, ousting Indian skipper Virat Kohli (14) courtesy of a superb catch by Zvonimir Pitko at point. Qadri later appealed for LBW against Agarwal, on 78 at the time. We opted not to review but replays showed that Agarwal would’ve been given out had we’d done so. How costly would that be?
Not very! Suddenly Agarwal endured a torrid time against the turn of Qadri and Louis Petit but survived until drinks. In the second over post beverages, Le Tallec (1-31) rolled his arm over and the captain promptly castled Agarwal’s stumps. As in the first Test Agarwal (84) couldn’t reach three figures. India recovered though and by tea were 217-4 with Rahane passing fifty and the partnership with Vihari doing the same.
In the second over after tea and with his first ball of a new spell, Louis Petit accounted for Rahane’s (52) middle stump. He then did for Pant (5) courtesy of a throw from the boundary as the hosts just couldn’t kick their run out habit!
Ravi Jadeja (8) dug in alongside Vihari but then needlessly chased a wide delivery and feathered an edge to wicketkeeper Marwan Leroy. Tactical genius Le Tallec then opted against the new ball and Youssef Rizvi (1-8) immediately claimed Vihari (59) as his maiden Test victim.
In the penultimate over of the day Qadri (3-86) claimed the wicket of Ravi Ashwin (16), caught in the slips by Smith ala the Pujara dismissal. Ishant Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah survived until close with India upto 294-9.
Less than three overs were required on day two for the Indian innings to be curtailed. The astute Le Tallec took the new ball yet combined spin with pace and it paid off handsomely as Petit (3-57) had Sharma (13) caught by Pitko. India all out for 298 with all wickets bar run outs falling to spin.
In reply, Enzo Petit and Jean-Luc Chevalier compiled 74 for the first wicket before Petit (35) stepped too far across his stumps and was bowled behind his legs by Ashwin. Smith appeared to be caught at slip first ball but India neglected to review. At times unconvincing, he survived until drinks.
Chevalier brought up a second Test fifty then struck three boundaries before he misjudged a delivery from Ashwin. Despite the review confirming that the ball pitched and struck pad outside the line of off stump, Chevalier (62) had offered no shot so had to depart. It wasn’t long after Chevalier’s dismissal that Smith’s mixed bag of an innings came to an end. He was rather suckered into a trap, caught at leg slip off Jadeja for 23. Rizvi and Pitko took us to lunch on 141-3.
After the interval the pair progressed to 178-4 before Rizvi (13), like Chevalier, chose to leave a ball from Ashwin, only to look back in horror and see his stumps rearranged! Zidane Thomas then endured ten torturous deliveries before falling for single figures for the third time in the series. Thomas (4) was bowled through his legs by Jadeja (2-72). India then made a surprise bowling change bringing back the pace of Bumrah (2-68) and we promptly conceded yet another own goal. Pitko (45), who had batted so well, top edged an unnecessary pull shot onto his helmet and was caught by Pujara. Le Tallec (13) then produced a near identical dismissal only this time Rohit Sharma took the catch. 119-1 had become 216-7.
Marwan Leroy and Louis Petit seemed to be rebuilding with a partnership of 38 but Petit (10) was caught and bowled by Ishant Sharma (1-83). Leroy (38) was then caught at short leg off Ashwin as the collapse continued then terminated when Martin was LBW first ball. It was another five-wicket haul for Ashwin (5-29) as we slumped from 74-0 and 178-3 to 262 all out, still 36 shy of parity. Nearly all our batsmen made a start but poor selection (Or non-selection!) cost us a first innings lead.
Back with ball in hand, in eight overs before tea we were sloppy but also unlucky, edges going to the boundary rather than to hand. Thomas started to work Sharma over however and in a great example of bowling in tandem, Louis Martin lured Sharma (16) into a leading edge. The ever reliable Pitko lunged forward from gully to execute the catch. India 38-1, effectively 74-1 at tea on only the second day.
A period of frustration ensued as the hosts comfortably kicked onto 99-1. Captain Le Tallec brought himself into the attack though and Agarwal soon succumbed. Need I tell you who held the catch at short leg? For Agarwal (36) it was another contribution in the series without progressing to make a really sizeable score. Leader Le Tallec didn’t stop there as he soon accounted for his opposing number Kohli (11). There are no prizes for guessing correctly who took the catch!
India increased their lead but immediately after bringing up a half-century Pujara (51) was caught behind off Qadri. Not long after that, at 148-4 and the lead 184, day two drew to a close.
Rahane and Vihari built on their foundations to lay a fifty partnership before a change of bowling helped oust Rahane. As Thomas appealed for LBW against Vihari, the pair scampered through for a risky single. Rahane (40) appeared to have made his ground but his bat actually bounced off the ground just at the moment that Magic touch Le Tallec broke the bails. It was a well needed stroke of fortune just two deliveries before beverages.
Post thirst quenching Vihari upped the tempo alongside the aggressive Pant. At lunch on day three India had ascended to 269-5 with the lead ballooning to 305.
Finally, after the partnership had surpassed a hundred, Qadri ousted Vihari (91), caught behind by Leroy. Le Tallec then opted against the new ball and Perit had Pant (65) caught by Pitko, his fourth catch of the innings. At that point India were 325-7. Both batsmen had batted extremely well and put their team firmly in control. Jadeja and Ashwin then went about doing the same and lifted the score to 384-7 at tea on day three. By the time the next drinks break came around India were upto 440-7 courtesy of another century partnership. Our captain and bowling unit simply had no answer to Jadeja’s and Ashwin’s efforts.
Eventually Martin found an edge… that went through the slips for four to bring up the 150 partnership! At the close of play on the third day India, having been 207-5, were 498-7, the lead upto a monstrous 534. Jadeja would sleep on 99 not out, Ashwin not far behind on 80.
Two balls into day four and Jadeja nicked behind but the ball didn’t carry to Leroy. Next ball he brought up his ton but soon fell to Le Tallec for 101. Ashwin (112*) also recorded a century while Martin ousted Sharma (1) with a superb caught and bowled. Thomas then terminated the innings when he dismissed Bumrah (3), courtesy of a second catch of the morning for Leroy. Our bowling figures made for grim reading but we had at least performed well to curtail… the tail. Le Tallec (3-103), Martin (2-105), Qadri (2-100) and Petit (1-105) all brought up centuries of their own. Thomas (1-88) wasn’t far behind. India finished 537 all out meaning that we needed 573 to win. We had just under two days to bat and of course a draw would seal a first ever series win. Should we attempt to bat time for a stoic and epic draw or try to achieve the highest run chase in Test history… in only our fourth Test?
Fourteen overs into the fourth innings of the match, messrs Petit and Chevalier had chalked up 57-0, the latter having overturned an LBW decision in the first over. Five sessions remained, 516 runs were required.
As is so often the case, the resumption prompted a wicket. Chevalier, having shown such discipline, played an unnecessary pull shot off Bumrah and was caught behind by Pant. Having batted for in excess of an hour, departing for just 21 was a waste. To the very next delivery Petit (36) was bowled by Jadeja’s first and our solid foundations suddenly didn’t seem so solid!
Smith (11) seemed to be defending resolutely but inside edged off Jadeja into the gloves of Pant. 58-0 had become 77-3. After some boundaries from Pitko, Rizvi defended a delivery from Jadeja only to see the ball bounce up off his boot and be caught at short leg. The wheels had come off and we were 86-4. Zidane Thomas, yet to make double figures in the series, arrived at the crease. 15 balls later, he hadn’t even made single figures and was bowled by Ashwin for a duck! 110-5!
First innings hero Iceman Pitko fell Rizvi style, defending a Jadeja delivery only to see the ball ricochet off his footwear and be snapped up a short leg. Like Rizvi, Pitko (43) will wish he’d just smacked the ball for 6 rather than defend. Le Tallec, who had tactically performed well at times, couldn’t lead by example with the bat. The captain nicked a needless cut shot to Pant off the rampant Jadeja (5-56) having made only 10. Gloveman Marwan Leroy, who had performed well behind the stumps, dug deep to do the same in front of them. He and Louis Petit reached tea on day four with the score 174-7, just 399 required for victory.
Leroy and Petit batted on sensibly and the former passed fifty for the first time at Test level. With the partnership blossoming at 77 and the crowd getting behind them, Leroy (61) nicked behind off Ashwin (3-24) when defending a shortish delivery. After an excellent display behind the stumps the young wicketkeeper had applied himself admirably and cemented his place as the team’s number one wicketkeeper batsman. Petit (43) soon fell in almost identical fashion. Qadri (6) then top edged a pull of Bumrah (2-88) next ball to gift Pant a sixth catch of the innings. The margin of defeat was a whopping 330 runs but there were still many positives gained as we recorded a 1-1 series draw away from home and in alien conditions against an established test nation. Onto Australia…
After years of knocking down the door, Welsh cricket has finally been granted independent international status by the ICC. No longer will the country be merely a feeder club for the England team.
Cardiff born captain Geraint Williams-Hughes couldn’t hold back the emotion, “It’s what we’ve all dreamed off, from Cardiff to the valleys, from Swansea to the top of Mount Snowdon. The dream has finally come true”, said the 27-year-old tear-drenched truck driver.
Newly-wed Bristol born teenage wicketkeeper Owen Jones, who qualifies through his wife’s grandma’s adopted cousin, was equally looking forward to playing full international cricket, “The ability is here in the camp. We’re literally flooding with talent. I’m looking forward to touring. I’ve never left the confines of Gloucestershire before but my wife has taught me some Welsh and she’s got family in Sydney so I hope to make the squad for Australia. I’ve asked our vice-captain Evan Evans (A qualified accountant) to counter-sign my passport application. I can’t wait!”.
Puffin Island born batsman Peter Zeta-Jones will be trying to dodge ducks not puffins when Wales grace the international stage. It’ll be on the shoulders of him and the likes of Wrexham wrist-spinner Llewelyn Cadwallader and express left-arm coal-miner Dylan Morgan-Davies to make The Dragons fly!
Wales will play there first full internationals in a T20I triangular tournament with the two other new nations to be formally recognised by the ICC today, Kangaroo Island and South East Quebec.
Following an encouraging performance in our one and only warm-up match, we faced off against the mighty India in the foothills of the Himalayas.
We lost the toss and not surprisingly were made to field. Opening batsmen Mayank Agarwal and Rohit Sharma soon took the hosts to 50-0 with little fuss. It’s fair to say that by the time India had collapsed to 55-3 then 90-4 at lunch, a fuss was being made!
All-rounder Zidane Thomas (1-23), entrusted with the new ball following the omission of talisman Alexandre Riviere, made the breakthrough by pinning Agarwal (35) LBW. Teenage spin sensation Mehdi Qadri, fresh from wickets in the tour game, then had Sharma (16) caught behind by Marwan Leroy in his first over. Debutant Louis Petit also struck straight away to announce his arrival to Test cricket in sublime style. The distinctive slow-left-armer claimed the wicket of India captain Virat Kohli for a seven-ball duck as his maiden Test victim… and who should be the catcher? Only his twin brother Enzo!
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane steadied things briefly before the Qadri/Leroy combo was at it again to account for Pujara (19).
After the interval, things never got any better for the hosts as they plunged further into the abyss at 135-9. Rahane (13) was ousted by Petit (15-3-28-2) courtesy of sharp work by Smith at slip before Vihari (15) was exquisitely caught by Zvonimir Pitko. Pitko, who has already proven himself to be a handsome fieldsman, was positioned somewhere between silly mid-on and mid-wicket. It was an outrageous take.
Our skipper, Xavier Le Tallec, was demonstrating astute tactical nous having been forced to field first. Risabh Pant (8) was another to succumb to rampant spin sensation Qadri before Ravi Jadeja (22) bedded in. However he was needlessly run out to curtail any fight back from the home side. Ravi Ashwin made a hard-earned 4 from 27 deliveries before edging Martin (1-43) to Chevalier who held the sort of catch that proclaimed “When it’s your day then it’s your day!”. Ishant Sharma (7) and Jasprit Bumrah (13*) frustrated briefly to haul the score to 153 before Qadri (5-56) bowled the former to record the first Test five-wicket haul in our nation’s history.
We then made a tidy start in our attempt to gain a first innings lead before Chevalier (14) edged a brute of a ball from Bumrah to third slip. That left us 24-1 before Petit and Smith really got our innings going. The pair had compiled 43 when India reviewed an LBW appeal against our opener. Despite clear evidence that Petit (29) had got bat on ball the decision was incorrectly overturned. We were 67-2 with drinks upon us and me spewing my cafe au lait!
After beverages we continued to build but regularly had our progress checked. Smith (26) was caught at slip off the bowling of Ashwin and Pitko (13) was turned inside out to be caught at mid-wicket off Ishant Sharma. Thomas (7) struck a maximum only to fall the very next ball. Thomas is developing a habit of batting for a fun time but not a long time. It’s such a waste provided his talent and on this occasion was a naive dismissal so late in the day. From 83-2 we’d stumbled to 136-5 at close of play on a wicket frenzy first day. Come day two a lot would rest on the shoulders of set batsman Youssef Rizvi, fresh from a century in the tour match.
On the second morning Rizvi and Marwan Leroy raised their partnership to 53 before both succumbed to the spin of Ashwin. Having contributed a fifty of his own, Rizvi (57) nicked behind to gloveman Pant before Leroy (42) was trapped on the crease LBW. Rizvi will feel that he could’ve left alone the ball that did for him and Leroy was gutted to fall short of a half-century. When the seventh wicket went down we’d accumulated 200 exactly.
Skipper Le Tallec and debutante Louis Petit upped the score to 268 but the return of Ashwin immediately (And by that I mean immediately!) accounted for Le Tallec (37). It was a welcome contribution from the skipper however after registering only 9 runs in four innings against England. The partnership had lifted our lead to in excess 100.
Qadri (6) didn’t last long. He was LBW to Jadeja and an optimistic review didn’t save him. Last man Louis Martin joined his namesake Petit and batted stoically to help build a frustrating (For the Indians!) last wicket stand. Petit, dropped by Pujara on 44, brought up a half-century on Test debut to go with his excellent bowling display. 299-9 and the lead upto 146 were the details at lunch. At the time, both team’s innings had lasted exactly 60 overs!
After the break the innings was soon curtailed by Ashwin (6-51) when he bowled Martin (7) around his legs but not before we’d passed 300. 302 all out with Petit unbeaten on 53 and a healthy lead of 149 meant that India’s batsmen had plenty of work to do.
India’s openers set about that work and amassed 24 runs without alarm at which point Zidane Thomas outright dismantled Rohit Sharma’s (15) stumps with a ferocious Yorker. It was a magnificent riposte by Thomas after being subjected to online vitriol overnight for his failure with the bat and having experienced an expensive first few overs with the ball. He had however made the vital first breakthrough for the second time in the match. India recovered though to reach 92-1 at tea, 57 from parity.
Agarwal and Pujara pushed on to put India in the lead and extend their partnership past 150 before Thomas intervened once again. He lured Agarwal (93) forward to edge a full delivery to Smith at slip. Smith didn’t need to move and India lost their second wicket with the score on 179, effectively 30-2.
There was then a mid-match patch, the replay function wouldn’t work properly, a deadly virus outbreak, screaming kids and Le Tallec (Well me!) dropping a catch off the bowling of Thomas. India were 211-2 at the conclusion of day two and well placed 62 in the lead.
On day three captain Kohli passed fifty at better than a run-a-ball and Pujara, having lingered in the nineties, brought up a determined and potentially match-defining ton. Having combined for 105 Kohli (70 off 71) was casual when running a third and was dismissed courtesy of a direct hit all the way from the boundary by action man Thomas. Soon after that, Pujara (113) had his middle stump uprooted by Pitko’s (1-15) part-time medium-pace. 315-4 and India 166 in the black was the equation at lunch.
Old habits died hard for India as Vihari (7) was inexplicably run out in just the third over of the middle session. Though gloveman Marwan Leroy ultimately effected the run out, it resulted from yet another throw from that man Zidane! The wicket of Vihari came in a Louis Martin over and in his next the opening bowler tempted Pant (1) into an expansive drive that he dragged onto his stumps. India had slumped from 284-2 to 332-6 but the lead was up to 190.
Rahane and Jadeja resisted before Thomas (3-110) finally claimed his third wicket… better late than never! Despite a hint of leg-side about it Jadeja (19) declined to review having been adjudged LBW. Ashwin (2) then feathered behind off a reinvigorated Martin (3-93) before Big Louis knocked over the stumps of key man Rahane (53).
Just as Sharma (6*) and Bumrah (7) started to frustrate, they completed a run out hat-trick for the second innings. India had fought back superbly but then so had we. Having commenced their second dig 149 runs in deficit they’d gained a lead but collapsed horribly from 284-2 to 390 all out, effectively losing eight wickets for only 106 runs. Curiously, all wickets but run outs in India’s second innings fell to pace bowling. We required 242 to win a Test match for the first time in our nation’s history.
To only the second delivery of our defining run-chase Jean-Luc Chevalier (2) pushed at an inducing full delivery from Bumrah and edged behind to Pant. Enzo Petit and Gilles Smith however raced to a fifty partnership. Immediately upon doing so Petit was adjudged LBW to Sharma but with Chevalier already wasting a review Petit rolled the dice once more. Replays confirmed that the ball was destined to bounce over the stumps and Petit survived, providing some atonement for the appalling first inning decision that he’d suffered. Following said review, India introduced spin in the form of first innings tormentor Ashwin. One over later we were 56-1 at tea still requiring 186 more to send shockwaves throughout the world.
Petit and Smith moved their partnership onto exactly 100 when Smith (41) edged to short leg off the bowling of Ashwin. 102-2, 140 to win!
With 106 runs required Rizvi (22), having looked so at ease at the crease but already fatigued between the wickets, was slow to ground his bat and run out. It had the potential to be a sliding doors moment!
Following Rizvi’s fall, Petit put his foot on the accelerator but a field change distracted him and he heartbreakingly fell short of a ton, bowled for 94, Ashwin (2-64) the bowler responsible. A distraught Petit trudged off to a rapturous applause from fans of both sides but he knew deep down that he hadn’t seen his team over the line. Thomas joined Pitko with the score 167-4 but suddenly 74 more seemed a big ask. Thomas promptly despatched his first ball for six to relieve some tension. Getting stumped off his second delivery (Jadeja 1-36) however brought all that tension right back!
Pitko and Leroy (6) steadied the leaking if not quite sinking ship before Bumrah was brought back into the attack. Leroy’s eyes lit up when Bumrah (2-74) served up a short ball first thing but the young wicketkeeper got his attempted pull all wrong, only ballooning the ball skyward before the slip fielder took the catch when it came back down to Earth. 191-6, 51 still required to win.
From there, the ultra-composed Zvonimir Pitko and captain Le Tallec compiled fifty exactly to level the scores. Pitko (49*) was cruelly denied a fifty of his own but how fitting that our captain, Xavier Le Tallec (19*), should score the winning run.
The match had ebbed and flowed like all great Test matches should. We’d made history and President Macron was on the phone before the players had even left the field. Emotion ran high among the playing squad and support staff. Many a tear was shed. Meanwhile back home people danced in the streets of Paris, Nantes, Lyon and beyond. Cricket was headline news on French TV. Children in the parks of Lille, Rennes and Montpellier wanted to pick up a bat and ball. Cricket had entered the French psyche on an unimaginable scale as an ex-teacher, plasterer and more than one university drop out amongst others had put India to the sword and placed French cricket firmly on the map. Forget Platini, Mauresmo and Prost (Well don’t forget them!) and remember Qadri, Petit, Le Tallec and co. There’s a second Test in Delhi to come but for now let’s saviour victory in the Himalayas!
Disclaimer: Apologies for the image quality… long story, various excuses!
Given that I’m bossing the France national cricket team in virtuality on Cricket 19, it seemed appropriate to report on the reality of French cricket.
For those of you that aren’t in the know, my other half is French hence my reasoning for creating the team on the game. To be clear, the players that I’ve created are completely fictional.
There is a suggestion that cricket actually originated in France but don’t tell that to the English! Cricket may have been on the map in France as early as 1478 but the first recorded match was not until 1864. Technically France are the reigning Olympic silver medalists having finished second at the 1900 Olympic Games. The team consisted entirely of Englishman however and the ‘final’ was the only match of the competition!
Cricket seemed to be taking off in France early in the twentieth century but World War I put paid to that. France withdrawing from NATO in 1966 also had a detrimental effect.
Much later in 1987 France gained Affiliate membership then in 2008 they became an Associate member. As was the case for all members France acquired Twenty20 International status in 2018. As of the latest T20I rankings published on 15th February this year, France sit in 49th place sandwiched between Argentina and Vanuatu…
France have been reliant on mainly Asian and sometimes English immigrants/expats in order to field a team and it’s to be hoped that French nationals can help fulfil a playing squad in the near future. Cricket has been on the school curriculum since 2010 which should help. The below video is fantastic but as with all developing cricket nations immigrants, expats and locals must come together. Nationality is not so easily defined in the modern era. People travel and relocate, for good reason as the below video demonstrates but it’s to be hoped the the French cricket team will have the odd Pierre, Gilles et Jean playing alongside Ahmed, Imran and Abdul.