Universe boss Chris Gayle described his last innings at Kensington Oval on Wednesday as one of his best.

West Indies hit a record 23 sixes against England on Wednesday as Chris Gayle fired the hosts to 360-8 in the opening ODI. 

Veteran opener, Christopher Henry Gayle, now has 24 centuries under his belt after smashing 135 off 128 deliveries to lead the Windies to 360 for 8 in the first One Day International of series against England at the Kensington Oval in Barbados. 

Ross Taylor hopes the runs will continue to flow for "a few years" after becoming New Zealand's leading one-day international run-scorer.

Taylor surpassed Stephen Fleming's tally of 8007 ODI runs by making 69 in an 88-run thrashing of Bangladesh in Dunedin on Wednesday.

The former Black Caps captain has 8026 to his name from 218 matches in the 50-over format for his country and is optimistic there is plenty more to come.

"I definitely would have taken that when I played my first match donkey's years ago," said Taylor, who turns 35 next month.

"If you play long enough I guess these records come along but it's nice to set the bar for the next guy. 

"I'm still enjoying myself and hopefully I've still got a few years in me."

Fleming praised Taylor after losing his record to his former team-mate.

He tweeted: "Congratulations @RossLTaylor amazing last 18 months and stellar career to date. Great player that I hope will set the bar high for the next. Well deserved and good luck over the next few months."

Victory for New Zealand sealed a 3-0 whitewash over the Tigers.

Coach Irfan Ansari has been banned from all cricket for 10 years for breaching three counts of the ICC Anti-Corruption Code.

Sarfraz Ahmed reported Ansari after he approached the Pakistan captain during a series against Sri Lanka in October 2017, with a view to soliciting information from him.

Ansari, a coach of two teams that play domestic matches in the United Arab Emirates, has been banned for a decade by the governing body - a punishment that was compounded by his failure to cooperate with its investigation.

Alex Marshall, ICC General Manager – ACU said: "I'd like to place on record my thanks to Sarfaraz Ahmed, who showed true leadership and professionalism from the moment he reported this approach.

"He recognised it for what it was, rejected it and reported it. He then supported our investigation and subsequent tribunal.

"This is the first time we have prosecuted for failure to cooperate with an investigation since the new rules enabling us to demand the participants hand over their phone for examination and the sanction reflects the seriousness of the offence.

"It is an important tool to aid our investigations and continue in our efforts to rid the sport of these corrupters."

Right now the 2019 Cricket World Cup is now the focus for most international sides but England and Australia know this is also an Ashes year.

Plenty can change between now and the first Test at Edgbaston, which starts on August 1, as demonstrated in recent months.

Not too long ago, England were riding high after securing a series sweep in Sri Lanka, while Australia had lost a series at home for the first time against India.

Since then, however, Joe Root's side slipped up against West Indies and Australia returned to winning ways on home soil, crushing the Sri Lankans.

So, before the 50-over game takes centre stage, we grasped the chance to assess the state of the two rival nations.

BATTING

England began their busy winter without a clear idea over the identity of their top three in the order. Now, several months and six Tests later, they seem further away from finding a solution than when they left home. 

Keaton Jennings did make a century on Sri Lankan soil, but his problems against seam bowling were exposed once again in the Caribbean. Rory Burns fared better in the 2-1 series defeat, yet is still far from certain of his place in the Test XI. 

Joe Denly made his debut in Antigua, opening instead of the dropped Jennings, yet ended the West Indies series at number three and made 69 during the second innings in St Lucia.

It all leaves the top-order picture unclear. Candidates from outside the previous two touring parties know a stack of early runs in the County Championship will push them into contention That is easier said than done, though, considering the domestic schedule and pitches favouring seam early in the English summer.

At least the rest of the line-up is more settled. With Root locked in at four, England appear set to have Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, who briefly went up to three before resuming duties behind the stumps, in the middle order. That quartet can power the team to competitive totals, provided they get better protection from those above them.

Much like their opponents, the batting order undoubtedly remains the biggest question mark for Australia, even though the returns of Steve Smith and David Warner from suspension will provide a huge boost.

The series against India and Sri Lanka did little to ease doubts over the top order, with the former's seamers dominating. Opener Marcus Harris was Australia's leading run-scorer against India with 258 at 36.85 but, for plenty of positive signs, his inability to convert starts into big scores hurt the team.

Joe Burns' big ton against Sri Lanka may be enough to get him a spot, while Travis Head has locked down his. Usman Khawaja scored what may have been a place-saving century in Canberra, having looked out of touch throughout the Australian summer.

 

The Australian Men's Cricket team celebrate the end of a successful Domain Test Series against Sri Lanka, winning 2-0 to claim the Warne–Muralitharan Trophypic.twitter.com/XJEMTmV06N

— Cricket Australia (@CricketAus) February 4, 2019

Kurtis Patterson also reached three figures versus Sri Lanka and may grab the final spot in the top six, although the remainder of the Sheffield Shield season could be decisive.

Shaun Marsh has surely lost his Test place for a final time, but he has continually scored runs at domestic level - not that that has mattered for the Shield's leading run-scorer this season in Matthew Wade. Aaron Finch, meanwhile, endured a miserable campaign after being asked to open.

Even during the successful series over Sri Lanka, Australia found themselves in tough spots at 76-3, 28-3 and 37-3. But they have been playing without their two best batsmen in Warner and Smith, the latter's ability to steady an innings and make big scores a particular miss.

Their returns may not solve Australia's problems but will help, although English conditions will provide yet another huge test.


BOWLING

Let us start with Australia, who, barring injuries, appear far more settled in this area of their team.

Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood are sidelined with pectoral and back injuries respectively, though their places are safe. Neither reached any great heights during the Australian summer, but Starc did find form against Sri Lanka, grabbing a 10-wicket Test haul in Canberra.

The pace attack was led by Pat Cummins instead, who was impressive and deserved greater rewards against India. Those duly arrived along with Sri Lanka as he took 14 wickets at 7.78. His 28 wickets were the most by an Australian across the six Tests. Such was his form, it was suggested Cummins should be taking the new ball.

In a further good sign on the pace front for Australia, Jhye Richardson replaced Hazlewood versus Sri Lanka and was handy. The 22-year-old took six wickets in the series.

Nathan Lyon enjoyed another strong summer and was, alongside Cummins, Australia's best bowler against India. The off-spinner finished that series with an equal-high 21 wickets – alongside the hugely impressive Jasprit Bumrah – to lift Australia as Starc and Hazlewood largely struggled.

Australia will need more from Starc and Hazlewood during the Ashes, and the latter will certainly enjoy the seaming conditions not often offered on flat wickets at home. But with Cummins also approaching his best, Australia have yet another pace option capable of causing England problems.

England, meanwhile, chopped and changed their attack in overseas conditions, but will likely revert to a more tried-and-tested battery of seamers on home turf.

Stuart Broad may not be a regular on the team's travels anymore, but he will undoubtedly play a leading role in the Ashes, alongside the evergreen James Anderson. 

Moeen Ali also is locked in as the frontline spinner – England are unlikely to pick two unless the conditions at any of the venues are certain to suit – and, while his form with the bat has dipped over the past year, the all-rounder has taken 177 Test wickets in 58 Test appearances. 

With Stokes - fitness permitting - certain to be in the team too, England appear to have one seamer spot up for grabs.

Mark Wood burst back onto the Test scene with a scintillating spell in St Lucia that the national selectors will struggle to forget. The Durham paceman’s injury record makes him far from a certainty to complete such a congested series, even if two fragile-looking batting units suggest there could be a few extra days of rest.

Sam Curran was England's new golden boy at the end of 2018 before his reputation lost a little shine on pitches that failed to suit in the Caribbean, while Olly Stone's tour was cut short by a back injury. Wood was his replacement and may well have skipped to the front of the queue with his five-wicket haul.


CURRENT OUTLOOK

England are favourites to regain the urn on home soil, mainly due to the fact Australia have not won an Ashes away series since 2001.

The hosts prevailed 3-2 four years ago and a repeat result would not be a surprise, considering how both teams are strong in the bowling department. The tourists' hopes may rest on Smith and Warner quickly settling back in, but previous issues for the Aussies against the moving ball may once again come back to haunt them.

Like Swiss cheese, these teams have holes. However, their problems - plus being prone to batting collapses - should make for entertaining viewing.

New Zealand sealed a one-day international series whitewash over Bangladesh with a resounding 88-run win in Dunedin on Wednesday.

Ross Taylor (69), Henry Nicholls (64) and Tom Latham (59) helped the Black Caps to 330-6 after they were put in to bat in the third ODI.

Taylor made history with his innings, going past Stephen Fleming as New Zealand's all-time leading run-scorer in the 50-over format.

Bangladesh were never in the chase, Tim Southee (6-65) reducing the tourists to 2-3 as they were all out for 242 as the Black Caps sealed a 3-0 series win despite a fine innings from Sabbir Rahman (102).

After opting to bowl first, Bangladesh made a solid start as Mashrafe Mortaza (1-51) trapped Colin Munro (8) in front.

Coming off two centuries this series, Martin Guptill fell for 29 – but it took a special piece of fielding to dismiss the opener.

Tamim Iqbal had to throw the ball into the air as he overbalanced over the boundary at long on, jumping back into play to complete the catch off Mohammad Saifuddin (1-48).

Taylor and Nicholls steadied New Zealand, the former bringing up 8,000 ODI runs before passing Fleming's record, as they combined for a 92-run stand.

Nicholls and Taylor both fell short of tons but the Black Caps still managed to take 106 off the final 10 overs.

Latham, Jimmy Neesham (37 off 24) and Colin de Grandhomme (37 off 15) helped the hosts to a massive total.

Bangladesh's hopes of a successful chase were ripped apart by Southee, who struck three times in his first two overs.

Tamim (0) carelessly edged the paceman through to Latham before Southee bowled Soumya Sarkar (0).

Liton Das (1) was then trapped lbw, before Trent Boult (2-37) and De Grandhomme (1-18) got in on the act, dismissing Mushfiqur Rahim (17) and Mahmudullah (16) respectively.

Sabbir and Saifuddin (44) combined for a 101-run sixth-wicket partnership, but Boult returned to break that and end the tourists' slim chances.

But Sabbir, dropped by Lockie Ferguson when he was yet to get off the mark, notched a maiden international century to frustrate New Zealand.

Southee helped clean up the lower-order, with Guptill taking a fabulous diving catch to dismiss Mehidy Hasan (37) late in the victory.

Windies skipper Jason Holder claims the unit is pleased to once again don the underdogs' tag ahead of the One Day International (ODI) series against England, which bowls off on Wednesday.

Heading into the series as the world’s number-one ranked team, England will once again be heavy favourites, with the regional side ranked some eight places below them. 

With the situation very similar to the one they faced in the Test series, where the Windies dominated to win 2-1.  Holder, who was suspended for the only the third and only Test the team lost, is hoping to return and make an immediate impact.

“We're pretty confident, we have momentum from the Test series and good experience in the dressing room,” Holder said.

“We pack a pretty heavy punch when we're stacking up our team. 'Underdogs' is not a bad tag to have - it's more pressure on them and less pressure on us,” he added.

“It was tough watching the Test in St Lucia but I'm very hungry to get back on the park and looking forward to the challenge of carrying the team forward.”

The Windies will face an even tougher test than the Test series with both pacers Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach out of action.  Keemo Paul, Evin Lewis and Rovman Powell are also ruled out.

South Africa have confirmed Vernon Philander will miss the second Test against Sri Lanka due to a hamstring problem.

The injury-prone seamer bowled only eight overs in the second innings of the opening Test at Kingsmead as the tourists chased down 304 to win by one wicket in remarkable scenes.

And if the Proteas are to prevail in Port Elizabeth and secure a 1-1 series draw, they will have to do so without Philander, who has 214 Test wickets at an average of 21.64.

"Injury update from the Proteas camp: Vernon Philander will miss the second Test against Sri Lanka due to a hamstring injury. There will be no replacement added to the squad," read a Cricket South Africa statement.

The second Test at St George's Park gets under way on Thursday.

Oman made the fourth-lowest score in List A cricket on Tuesday as they capitulated to 24 all out against Scotland.

In a 50-over contest in Al Amarat, the hosts were bundled out in just 17.1 overs as Ruaidhri Smith and Adrian Neill each took 4-7 to rip through the batting line-up.

The remarkable total is the lowest ever by a senior international side, breaking the previous record of 35 set by Zimbabwe in an ODI against Sri Lanka in 2004.

Oman's number three Khawar Ali top-scored with 15, including the only boundary of the innings, while the three wides sent down by Smith and Neil represented the second-highest contribution to the tally.

Five batsman registered ducks and, to rub salt into the wounds, Scotland knocked off the 25 required in just 3.2 overs, sealing victory with 280 balls remaining and ensuring the entire match lasted only 20.3 overs.

Oman will have the chance to atone for their dismal display when they play the second match of the three-game series at the same venue on Wednesday.

"Everything seemed to go quite well," said Scotland bowler Smith in something of an understatement. "It's quite rare, normally there's a partnership somewhere but we kept picking up wickets which was nice.

"I didn't think it was a bad wicket, we just bowled really well and took our chances when they came. If we bowl first again, hopefully something similar would be nice!"

London's Trafalgar Square was the scene of a takeover on Tuesday as Cricket World Cup organisers marked 100 days to go before the start of the tournament.

Hosts and favourites England, the number-one team in the ICC ODI rankings, kick the matches off against South Africa at the Oval on May 30 - the start of six weeks of action in what promises to be a thrilling 12th edition of the event.

The likes of Clive Lloyd, who captained West Indies to glory against Australia at Lord's in the inaugural World Cup in 1975, was among those in attendance at one of the English capital's most famous landmarks.

Legendary England cricketers Alastair Cook and James Anderson were also present, as were a number of celebrities from the sporting and show business fraternities.

Lloyd, who made a century in that triumph over Australia and also led the Windies to a successful defence of their crown four years later, is backing his nation to lift the title for a third time.

"100 days to go to the World Cup and I'm sure the West Indies will be there, and probably win it! Good luck to them," he said.

The 10 sides will play each other once, with the top four teams at the end of that round-robin phase advancing to the semi-finals, with the decider to be played at Lord's on July 14.

Colonial Group International Ltd. (CGI) has announced a major global partnership with Cricket West Indies (CWI) that “will benefit cricket across the region from communities and young families to professional cricketers”.

Centuries from Jason Roy and Joe Root led England to a dominant 171-run win over a University of the West Indies (UWI) Vice Chancellor’s XI at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados. 

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