Cricket in July 2014: Schedules and Previews for Every International Series
The month of July will see a busy schedule on the international cricket calendar, with five series set to commence across four regions in the coming weeks.
Headlining the action is England's five-Test encounter with India that runs into August, which will be the only Test series of such length in 2014.
Elsewhere, South Africa will embark on a Test and one-day international tour of Sri Lanka, with Hashim Amla preparing to captain the Proteas for the first time after the retirement of Graeme Smith.
New Zealand will also look to keep their successful stint in the West Indies going in a two-match Twenty20 international series, while Afghanistan head to Zimbabwe for a quick ODI campaign.
Across the following slides, we examine each international series in detail.
Zimbabwe vs. Afghanistan ODI Series
|July 18||Zimbabwe vs. Afghanistan 1st ODI||Bulawayo|
|July 20||Zimbabwe vs. Afghanistan 2nd ODI||Bulawayo|
|July 22||Zimbabwe vs. Afghanistan 3rd ODI||Bulawayo|
|July 24||Zimbabwe vs. Afghanistan 4th ODI||Bulawayo|
Initially planned for January but delayed because of the hosts' financial crisis and player boycott, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan meet in their rescheduled series this month.
Zimbabwe enter the four-match one-day international showdown having not played a match since the nation's disappointing ICC World Twenty20 campaign.
Beaten by Hong Kong in the first of two warm-up games, the Africans slumped to defeat against Ireland in their first Group B clash, failing to progress to the Super 10 stage thanks to the Netherlands' incredible victory over the Irish in the group's final match.
However, a series at home against one of the ICC's Associates should provide the opportunity for Zimbabwe to return to winning ways.
Although they were hammered by India in July and August last year, the troubled cricketing nation did manage to record victories at home against Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Additionally, Afghanistan have won just one of their six ODIs against ICC Full Members, providing another boost for the home side.
West Indies vs. New Zealand T20I Series
|July 5||West Indies vs. New Zealand 1st T20I||Roseau|
|July 6||West Indies vs. New Zealand 2nd T20I||Roseau|
Fresh from fighting out an intriguing Test series, West Indies and New Zealand will continue their clash in the Caribbean with two Twenty20 internationals this week.
After claiming a 2-1 victory in the three-Test encounter, the tourists will feel extremely confident as they ride an extended run of good form in all of the game's formats.
Additionally, the New Zealand limited-overs batting line-up is beginning to look more formidable, with Brendon McCullum now surrounded by classy players in Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson, as well as powerful hitters such as Jimmy Neesham and Corey Anderson.
The Kiwis are also steadily developing with the ball, with Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Mitchell McClenaghan providing high quality options for the visitors.
However, the West Indians are far more comfortable in the T20 arena than the game's other formats; their powerful, high impact players perfectly suited to the explosive nature of the T20 game.
With Darren Sammy leading the way as one of the world's premier limited-overs finishers, as well as other T20 stars such as Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Samuel Badree, Lendl Simmons and Krishmar Santokie, expect the hosts to bounce back against New Zealand in their favourite format.
Sri Lanka vs. South Africa ODI Series
|July 6||Sri Lanka vs. South Africa 1st ODI||Colombo|
|July 9||Sri Lanka vs. South Africa 2nd ODI||Pallekele|
|July 12||Sri Lanka vs. South Africa 3rd ODI||Hambantota|
Sri Lanka couldn't dream of a better run of limited-overs form than the streak they're on at the moment, having claimed a series victory over Bangladesh, the Asia Cup and ICC World Twenty20 titles and a 3-2 series victory over England in succession so far in 2014.
Returning home to face South Africa in three one-day internationals prior to a two-match Test series, Angelo Mathews' men will be heavily favoured to record a fifth consecutive triumph.
With a brilliant batting line-up that includes Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Kusal Perera and Mathews, the Sri Lankans have proved extremely tough to tie down in recent months. When you add the team's world-class limited-overs bowling attack—that, despite his absence in Test cricket, is still led by Lasith Malinga—you have a blend that is mightily effective and even more so at home.
South Africa, meanwhile, will have to overcome their unfamiliarity with the subcontinental conditions if they're to win their first one-day international series in the region for more than a decade.
Further hindering the Proteas' campaign will be the lack of spinning options available to AB de Villiers, who, despite being overlooked for the Test captaincy, remains the leader of the nation's ODI outfit.
With the team's reliance on pace and susceptibility to the turning ball, South Africa will have to use every ounce of their guile, variety and patience to push Sri Lanka in this series.
Sri Lanka vs. South Africa Test Series
|July 16-20||Sri Lanka vs. South Africa 1st Test||Galle|
|July 24-28||Sri Lanka vs. South Africa 2nd Test||Colombo|
While Sri Lanka's success has typically centred on the limited-overs formats, the team's dramatic series victory over England last month suggests that the nation's sparkling run on the international stage could be ready to span all formats.
After hanging on for a thrilling draw at Lord's, Angelo Mathews' sturdy side captured victory in an equally tense match at Headingley, dismissing James Anderson with the second last ball of the fifth day to secure Sri Lanka's first Test series win on English soil.
Having excelled in foreign conditions, Mathews' men will return home to face a South African outfit entering the opening phase of a new era under Hashim Amla in the wake of Graeme Smith's retirement.
Needing to reshuffle the batting order slightly, the Proteas will be forced to lean heavily on Amla and AB de Villiers, who, in the absence of Smith and Jacques Kallis, are now the team's only world-class batsmen.
But it's with the ball that South Africa will face greater problems, given that their pace contingent of Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander will endure extremely unfriendly conditions on the lifeless surfaces found in Sri Lanka.
With only Imran Tahir—a spinner with a Test bowling average of 43.08—to turn to when the seamers tire, it's difficult to see how South Africa can impose their typical aggression and dominance on the hosts this month.
England vs. India Test Series
|July 9-13||England vs. India 1st Test||Trent Bridge|
|July 17-21||England vs. India 2nd Test||Lord's|
|July 27-31||England vs. India 3rd Test||The Rose Bowl|
|August 7-11||England vs. India 4th Test||Old Trafford|
|August 15-19||England vs. India 5th Test||Kennington Oval|
In unquestionably the most significant series beginning this month, England and India will go head to head in a five-Test showdown that will prove pivotal for both nations.
For England, their encounter with the Indians represents a rather monumental period. With public support for the team rapidly declining and the team's form dissipating just as quickly, England's self-proclaimed new era could witness early casualties—most notably the captain, Alastair Cook—should the side's malaise extend any further.
India, meanwhile, are desperate to find a way to win away from home, given that they haven't won a Test on foreign soil in three years.
But if there's a positive for MS Dhoni's men, it's the untainted nature of his youthful side. Only three members of India's touring party have played a Test in England, meaning that, despite their inexperience in English conditions, India's players won't carry the scars from previous failures in the United Kingdom.
With a talented batting line-up led by Virat Kohli, it's possible that the visitors are staring at their best opportunity yet to break their dreadful form away from home.
Consequently, a stern test of England's new-look side awaits.
All statistics and match data courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo.