Monday sees the conclusion of Group A of the Africa Cup of Nations, with three sides still hoping to reach the knockouts.

While host nation Cameroon have already secured their last-16 spot, any of Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Ethiopia could yet join them in the next round.

Ethiopia's qualification would truly seem miraculous given they lost their opening two games and have failed to win any of their previous 10 matches in this competition.

Yet in a tournament that has already seen a few shocks, few would rule out another famous result.

 

Burkina Faso v Ethiopia

Ethiopia are on a four-match losing run at the AFCON, and they have only once endured a longer such streak, losing five in a row between 1968 and 1970.

They also suffered a 4-0 defeat to Burkina Faso in the only previous meeting of these sides in this competition, in what was the Stallions' biggest victory in the tournament.

However, despite losing 1-0 to Cape Verde and 4-1 to Cameroon at these finals, Wubetu Abate's men can still clinch a top-two finish with a win on matchday three. A high-scoring win would see them snatch second place should the hosts win the other game, while they could still end up as one of the top four third-place finishers.

"We did everything to put in a good match and a good performance against Cameroon," said Abate. "We scored a goal early in the game but couldn't keep the score in our favour.

"We are learning in the big competitions. Experience has made the difference between us and the Cameroon team. Each match has its characteristics. The matches are different but we try to show our abilities and play good football."

One to watch: Gustavo Sangare

Burkina Faso could finish second even with a defeat as long as Cape Verde lose, but the man best placed to get them all three points could be Sangare. Scorer of the opening goal of the tournament against Cameroon, he has attempted more shots (four) and created more chances (six) than any other player for his side.

 

Cape Verde v Cameroon

Although they have twice had to come from behind, Cameroon have looked impressive in these finals, their 4-1 thrashing of Ethiopia guaranteeing their spot in the last 16.

Should Toni Conceicao choose to rest any of his stars, this could prove to be a far trickier test given Cape Verde's recent defensive record.

They had lost only once in their previous eight AFCON matches before a 1-0 defeat to Burkina Faso, and that was the only time in their most recent four games in the competition in which they conceded a goal. They have faced difficulties in the opposition box, though, failing to score in three of their past four AFCON matches.

There is plenty to admire about Cape Verde's approach, even if goals have been a little hard to come by. They have recorded more sequences of 10 passes or more than any side at these finals (24), while a high-pressing approach has yielded 13 high turnovers, a figure bettered by only four teams.

One to watch: Kenny Rocha Santos

No Cape Verde player has attempted more shots (five), created more chances (two) or made more recoveries (13) than Kenny Rocha Santos. The 22-year-old Oostende midfielder also leads his side for shot-ending sequence involvements (eight) and shot-ending carries (two). Little wonder there is talk of interest from Liverpool.

 

Manuel Pellegrini said it was a bittersweet feeling after Real Betis beat Sevilla 2-1 in a Copa del Rey derby that spanned two days and was marred by violence. 

The Betis head coach saw his team resume at 1-1 on Sunday at Estadio Benito Villamarin, and a strike from Sergio Canales carried them through to the quarter-finals.

The game had been suspended on Saturday due to crowd trouble, with Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan hit by an object from the stands during celebrations of Nabil Fekir's 39th-minute goal that equalised Papu Gomez's opener.

Jordan was taken to hospital for checks after being struck by a projectile from the crowd that appeared to hit him on the head.

After the game was completed behind closed doors on Sunday, television footage emerged of Betis substitute Andres Guardado seemingly mocking Jordan's misfortune while celebrating, bouncing a water bottle off his forehead and slumping to the ground, feigning injury.

The incident drew an immediate rebuke in the Spanish media, where it was widely interpreted as a jibe at Jordan.

Pellegrini said of the result, according to AS: "The first thing is that I'm happy to be in the next round. But also bitter because I think a lot of damage has been done by a brainless person [when Jordan was hit on Saturday].

"I don't know if a plastic tube does that much damage, but there has to be an investigation. Football suffered great damage."

Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui did not want the game to resume on Sunday, and said: "There were many possibilities to play on other days. Justice in this case does not exist at all."

Canales put Betis ahead in the 73rd minute when he was left in space on the left after a pass from William Carvalho and surged forward before beating goalkeeper Alfonso Pastor.

Jules Kounde hit the bar with a late header as Sevilla battled for a leveller.

A stoppage-time clanger from goalkeeper Badra Ali Sangare meant Ivory Coast could only draw 2-2 with Sierra Leone at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Sangare attempted to prevent a late corner but shockingly let the ball squirm from his grasp and Steven Caulker was able to capitalise, crossing for Alhaji Kamara to scramble home.

It was the second costly major error from Ivory Coast who squandered a 12th-minute penalty when Franck Kessie saw his kick pushed away by Mohamed Kamara, after Wilfried Zaha was sent sprawling by Umaru Bangura.

Kamara was the hero of Sierra Leone's opening goalless draw against Algeria, but he was beaten here in the 25th minute when Zaha's excellent pass found Sebastien Haller, and the Ajax man took a touch before rifling into the bottom-right corner.

Sierra Leone surprisingly drew level in the 55th minute when Musa Kamara produced some outstanding footwork to drive into the penalty area and send a left-footed strike into the top-left corner.

Ivory Coast restored their lead with a delightful team goal in the 65th minute, the ball being worked swiftly from left to right before Nicolas Pepe drove a low 20-yard shot beyond the Sierra Leone goalkeeper. Yet there was a sucker-punch to come in the third minute of stoppage time, Sangare left embarrassed and injured in the process of conceding the dramatic equaliser.

Wahbi Khazri scored twice as Tunisia boosted their hopes of progressing to the Africa Cup of Nations knockout stages with a commanding 4-0 win over Mauritania.

The Saint-Etienne forward struck in each half, while Hamza Mathlouthi and Seifeddine Jaziri were also on target as the Eagles of Carthage secured their first points in Group F.

After defeat in their opener against Mali, Tunisia were aiming to avoid losing four successive Africa Cup of Nations matches for the first time in their history.

However, they made the perfect start; striking twice inside the opening 10 minutes at Stade Municipal de Limbe. First, Mathlouthi drilled in his first international goal, while Khazri slotted home soon after.

Any faint hopes Mauritania had of getting back into the game were dashed in the 64th minute, when Khazri brilliantly dummied Ali Maaloul's ball before finishing the return pass from Ghaylene Chaalali.

He then turned provider two minutes later with a perfectly timed throughball for Jaziri to neatly finish.

Youssef Msakni squandered the chance to make it five in the dying moments. His penalty came back off the post, meaning Tunisia have now missed their last three spot-kicks in the competition.

Jurgen Klopp saluted the patience and desire demonstrated by Liverpool during their 3-0 win over Brentford.

Goals from Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Takumi Minamino lifted the Reds above Chelsea to reach second place in the Premier League table.

Despite enjoying 74 per cent of possession and registering 12 shots before the break, Klopp's side had to be patient for the breakthrough against stubborn opponents at Anfield.

It arrived just before half-time as Fabinho headed in from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner, and they pressed home their advantage after the break with two goals in eight minutes sealing the points.

Klopp was pleased by the way his players were able to adapt to the challenges posed by the Bees.

"It's extremely uncomfortable to play against Brentford, to be honest," Klopp told BBC Sport. "They usually play differently, but the way they play against us is really difficult.

"There were so many moments where the ball was in the air and the moment it was on the ground, we had to start playing football.

"It was not always fluent, but that's how it is very often – the set-pieces can be the opener. That was the case today. We could have scored maybe before, but then the next two goals were outstanding.

"You need patience. You cannot lose focus or get sloppy. You have to stay full of desire even when you don't find direction. We had to switch sides, play it quick and all these kinds of things. We really controlled it in the second half."

Fabinho got the ball rolling with his third goal in as many games, having netted twice in the FA Cup win over Shrewsbury Town last weekend.

"We needed these three points and a good performance, so it was nice to do it in front of our fans," the Brazilian midfielder said. "It will be good to grow our confidence.

"It's always nice to score here at Anfield. When I can help the team in the offensive part of the pitch, it's always important for me as well.

"The team played really well with the ball. We created a lot of opportunities to score. It is a chance for everybody to show their quality and step up. We did that today."

Kevin Durant faces a spell out of action after the Brooklyn Nets confirmed the extent of the knee injury he suffered in Saturday's win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Coach Steve Nash was hopeful that Durant would avoid a layoff, but the news from his MRI scan was not what the Nets wanted to hear.

In a statement, the Nets said on Sunday: "Following an MRI this morning, Kevin Durant was diagnosed with a sprained medial collateral of the left knee.

"Durant is expected to return to full strength following a period of rehabilitation. Updates regarding his return will be provided as appropriate."

ESPN reported that Durant may be absent for the team for around four to six weeks.

The Nets' 120-105 win over the Pelicans improved their record this season to 27-15, but it came at the cost of losing Durant in the second quarter.

He had racked up 12 points in 12 minutes of action, before the injury occurred when Nets guard Bruce Brown fell backwards into the two-time NBA champion.

Durant is averaging 29.3 points per game this season, along with 7.4 total rebounds and 5.8 assists.

His absence will shift workload onto James Harden, with Kyrie Irving unable to play home games for the Nets due to his unvaccinated status conflicting with a New York City mandate affecting indoor arenas. Harden is averaging 22.7 points, 10.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists.

The Nets, who sit 0.5 games behind the Chicago Bulls at the top of the Eastern Conference, are next in action on Monday when they face the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Liverpool moved second in the Premier League with a 3-0 victory over Brentford at Anfield.

These two sides played out a thrilling six-goal draw in the reverse fixture but Sunday's contest was decidedly more one-sided, as Jurgen Klopp's men showed a good reaction to their goalless draw with 10-man Arsenal in the EFL Cup.

Fabinho headed in a first-half opener before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's first league goal of the season and a tap-in from Takumi Minamino sealed the points in the closing stages.

Virgil van Dijk went closest to breaking the deadlock in the opening half-hour, his attempt following a corner brilliantly turned away from the bottom-right corner by Alvaro Fernandez.

The hosts created little else but gifted Brentford some openings with some slack play at the back, with Ivan Toney shooting narrowly wide after a poor Joel Matip clearance.

An offside flag then intervened in another promising Brentford break, and they were behind three minutes later, Fabinho nodding in at the far post after Trent Alexander-Arnold's inswinging corner had bounced through a crowded box.

Bryan Mbeumo fired just past Alisson's left-hand post at the start of the second half, while at the other end, Diogo Jota smashed a shot off the base of the post and Fernandez smothered Roberto Firmino's rebound.

Fernandez again denied Jota when the Portugal forward burst into the box, but Liverpool's pressure eventually told, Oxlade-Chamberlain diving at the back post to head home Andy Robertson's cross from the left.

Firmino then pounced on Brentford's sluggish attempt to pass out from the back before laying the ball off to Minamino to slot home a birthday goal.

What does it mean? Liverpool looking like Manchester City's sole challengers

City's 1-0 win over Chelsea put them 12 points ahead of the European champions at the top of the table, and Liverpool's win here sent them into second place.

Should they win their game in hand over Pep Guardiola's side, the Reds will cut the gap at the summit to eight points – hardly small, but not beyond their means.

They are now arguably the only side who can mount any sort of threat to City's title bid.

Ox in the box

Deployed in Mohamed Salah's usual position on the right of the attack, Oxlade-Chamberlain showed the kind of efficiency in his play to make the Egypt star proud.

While he had the fewest touches (38) of any starting Liverpool player, he created a joint-high three chances and showed great determination to meet Robertson's cross.

Bees lose their sting

After Liverpool's struggle to break down Arsenal in their previous game, Brentford might have viewed this as a chance to build on their impressive performance in the home fixture.

As it was, they failed to muster an attempt on target until a tame Toney effort in injury time as they slumped to a fourth defeat in five league games.

What's next?

Liverpool face Arsenal in the second leg of the EFL Cup semi-final on Thursday before a league trip to Crystal Palace in a week's time. Brentford have two full days to recover before the visit of Manchester United.

After the Patriots saw their playoff campaign emphatically come to an end on Saturday, the man who left New England to further his legacy begins his quest for an eighth ring on Sunday.

Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be expected to win in routine fashion in their Wild Card round matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, while the team they beat in last season's Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs, are anticipated to end Ben Roethlisberger's career with a routine victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Sandwiched between those two potential blowouts is the game of the weekend as two storied rivals, the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys, contest a long overdue renewal of acquaintances in the postseason.

As Stats Perform's look at Sunday's action explains, both the Niners and the Cowboys possess the offense firepower to ensure the matchup lives up to its lofty expectations.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The defending champion Bucs are unsurprisingly the heavy favourites against an Eagles team that claimed nine wins in the regular season, none of which came against an opponent that made the postseason.

Not much stock will be put in the history of this encounter, even if it does make pleasant reading for any Eagles fans looking for reason for hope.

The Eagles and Buccaneers have split their 20 all-time meetings, with each team winning eight regular-season games and two in postseason play. Their only postseason matchup in Tampa was a 24-17 win by the Bucs in 1979, their first-ever playoff win.

All eyes at Raymond James Stadium will be on Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, who is set for another piece of history in his seemingly endless career.

Brady will be playing in his 19th postseason and in his 46th career playoff start, the most by any player in NFL history. At age 44, Brady will break his own record for the oldest quarterback to start a playoff game. Brady has more playoff wins since turning 36 years old (17) than any other QB has in his entire career.

Ian Botham led an onslaught of criticism for England's Ashes failures after Joe Root's team capitulated pitifully to lose the final Test in Hobart.

Botham was joined by fellow former England captains Alastair Cook, Michael Vaughan and David Gower in picking apart another wretched display, with Australia tying up a 4-0 series victory.

England sit at the foot of the World Test Championship, and Botham said the culture of English cricket needed to change, with the heavy emphasis on domestic limited-overs competitions harming the five-day team.

Speaking on Channel 7, Botham said: "It's been embarrassing, if I'm honest. Gutless.

"The way they performed today disappointed me and will have disappointed everyone back home."

England went from 68-0 to 124 all out, the final ignominy from a shambolic tour performance as Australia won by 146 runs.

"The one thing we need to do right now is take our heads out of the sand and pull together and prioritise red-ball cricket," Botham said. "If we're not careful, the eskimos will be beating us."

Cook, Joe Root's predecessor as captain, found it a jarring watch as England went from building a solid foundation to outright carnage, unable to hold back Australia's victory charge.

"There was no resilience there. As soon as they get under pressure, you seen how much resolve there is," Cook said.

"That was very, very tough viewing and that has to be our rock bottom. There cannot be any worse a place in terms of getting bowled out in an hour and a half."

Speaking on BT Sport, Cook added: "As a batter and a professional who plays games of cricket, you get bowled out in a session once or twice in a career.

"You see a batting line-up devoid of all confidence and belief, that once you lose one wicket or two wickets, nobody's going to step up and stop that slide.

"You can talk all you want about it in the dressing room, but until some people grab this team by the scruff of the neck and move it forward themselves, I can't see what's changed."

Vaughan, on Twitter, said England had carried through 2021's "year of the batting collapse" into this year, adding: "You can cope with losing but not when you throw the towel in."

Gower suggested the positive messages that Root and coach Chris Silverwood attempted to deliver were misleading.

"I think we understand very easily that neither Joe Root or Chris Silverwood are going to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth under these circumstances," Gower said.

"Both are under pressure for different reasons. Joe has handled it well, kept a smile on his face. When you see him run out to bat today you can see there is a man who wants to do his best to finish on a high note, but he is not being supported.

"Silverwood's role is a different one because he is fully implicated in selection, and selection's been one of the huge talking points on this tour, right from Brisbane onwards."

For the first Test at the Gabba, England went into the match and series with star bowlers Stuart Broad and James Anderson mystifyingly left on the sidelines.

"There were jaws dropping at home and in Brisbane when the team was announced and when events unfolded," Gower said.

Also speaking on BT Sport, Gower said he had "genuine sympathy" for Root given the focus on white-ball cricket. Although England won the World Cup, in Test cricket they are firmly in the doldrums.

"This is the oldest, most important form of the game," Gower said. "We need to defend it, we need an England team that plays it well, that is not languishing at the foot ... barely even at the foot of the World Test Championship.

"These things really annoy people and apparently it's really annoying me at the moment.

"When you're going to try to be constructive, you look at personnel for sure, so there will be people fearing for their position in the side. Then you also have to consider who else is there to take over. There are players out there who would hope they might get a go as a result of other people's failures, but they've got to show character."

Rafael Benitez has been sacked by Everton after a run of just two wins in 14 games across all competitions. 

The Premier League side announced Benitez's departure on their official website on Sunday, a day on from losing 2-1 to bottom side Norwich City.

"Everton Football Club can confirm the departure of Rafael Benitez as first team manager," the statement read. 

"An update on a permanent replacement will be made in due course."

Former Liverpool boss Benitez was a largely divisive appointment at Everton when he was drafted in to replace Carlo Ancelotti in the close-season after the Italian left for Real Madrid.

Hampered by financial restrictions, Benitez was only able to spend a reported £1.7million in his first transfer window at the club, bringing in Demarai Gray, Andros Townsend, Asmir Begovic, Andy Lonergan and Salomon Rondon, while star player James Rodriguez left the club in September.

Everton nevertheless started the season well, winning three of their first four league matches, yet injuries to key players and a dreadful loss of form has seen them slide down the table.

A 4-1 home defeat to Liverpool in December resulted in director of football Marcel Brands leaving the club, with a fan protest against the board taking place in the following match against Arsenal

Gray's late stunner sealed a 2-1 win over the Gunners, yet that is the only victory Everton have claimed in the league since they defeated Norwich on September 25.

A win over Hull City in the FA Cup third round offered Benitez a reprieve, but defeat to lowly Norwich – who had lost their previous six top-flight matches without scoring – marked a new nadir, and Everton have decided to make a change.

It was the Toffees' first away defeat against a team starting the day bottom of the Premier League table since May 2004.

Benitez, who signed a three-year contract, was the club's fifth permanent manager during the ownership of Farhad Moshiri, who bought a majority share of Everton in 2016.

He leaves with Everton in the lower reaches of the division with 19 points from as many games, just six clear of the relegation places.

Everton are back in action next Saturday with a home match against Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa.

Josh Allen called on the Buffalo Bills to maintain the same urgency in their bid to reach the Super Bowl after records tumbled as they demolished the New England Patriots.

The Bills thumped AFC East rivals the Patriots 47-17 on Saturday to reach the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs.

Buffalo led 27-3 at halftime after an explosive start and Allen set a team playoff record with five touchdown passes in a fine performance.

Sean McDermott's team inflicted the biggest margin of defeat in the playoffs for the Patriots since Bill Belichick took charge in 2000.

The rampant Allen had more touchdowns (five) than incomplete passes (four) as the Bills scored a TD on all seven drives and went the whole game without a punt, field goal or turnover – a first in the NFL playoffs.

Per Stats Perform data, Allen became the first QB in NFL history to complete at least 80 per cent of his passes, throw for 5+ TDs and also rush for 50+ yards (66) in a single game.

Up next will be either a trip to the Kansas City Chiefs in a rematch of the AFC Championship from last season or a home game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

That will be decided by the outcome of the Chiefs' matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, but regardless of the next opponent Allen knows the Bills need more of the same.

"We feel good," Allen said, per ESPN. 

"When you are going into every game with a win-or-go-home mentality, and that's really what we've had in the last few weeks, just the attention to detail in practice – guys are more attentive.

"The urgency is there, and you're seeing us play better because of it. We're going to need that same mentality this week.

"There are some things that we can clean up and work on, but we moved on, we're on to the next one and it doesn't matter what we did – it's what we do next week."

The dominant nature of the Bills' performance gave them a rare opportunity to savour the atmosphere on a cold night at Highmark Stadium.

"It's not often in coaching you can enjoy the last six minutes of a game and kind of look up in the stands and see the fans enjoying it and at home," said head coach McDermott.

"I'm happy for them more than anything. For us as a team this year, it's one game. 

"[The Patriots] – that is a good football team and they've been at the top for so long. So, we have a lot of respect for them. We've just got to keep moving on."

Asked about the fantastic display from Allen, he added: "It's fun to watch young players develop. There's a lot that goes into that. 

"Number one is the player, in this case Josh, taking greater ownership of his development and his preparation this week. That is what led him to the results you saw on the field. It's pretty black and white that way."

Novak Djokovic's absence from the Australian Open "is a loss for the game", says men's tennis governing body the ATP.

The world number one failed in his bid to overturn a decision from the government to cancel his visa on public health grounds at the Federal Court in Melbourne on Sunday.

Djokovic, who is unvaccinated against COVID-19, will therefore be unable to participate in the Australian Open, where he was seeking a record-extending 10th title.

As the 20-time grand slam winner prepared to fly out of Australia on Sunday, the ATP released a statement reflecting on a "deeply regrettable" saga that lasted 10 days.

"Today's decision to uphold Novak Djokovic's Australian visa cancellation marks the end of a deeply regrettable series of events," the statement read. 

"Ultimately, decisions of legal authorities regarding matters of public health must be respected. 

"More time is required to take stock of the facts and to take the learnings from this situation.

"Irrespective of how this point has been reached, Novak is one of our sport's greatest champions and his absence from the Australian Open is a loss for the game. 

"We know how turbulent the recent days have been for Novak and how much he wanted to defend his title in Melbourne. 

"We wish him well and look forward to seeing him back on court soon. ATP continues to strongly recommend vaccination to all players."

 

Sunday's verdict brings an end to a long-running saga that began when Djokovic was held at an airport in Melbourne when he arrived in the country on January 6.

The 34-year-old won an appeal to overturn the first bid to deport him from the country, but immigration minister Alex Hawke used his powers to again cancel the visa.

That decision was taken amid much backlash in the country, which has strict coronavirus restrictions, and Australian prime minister Scott Morrison backed Sunday's verdict.

"This cancellation decision was made on health, safety and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so," he said.

"I welcome the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe.

"I thank the court for their prompt attention to these issues and the patience of all involved as we have worked to resolve this issue. 

"It's now time to get on with the Australian Open and get back to enjoying tennis over the summer."

But the unanimous verdict did not go down well with everyone, with Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic launching an attack on Australia for their handling of the matter.

"I talked to Novak and told him I can't wait for him to come to Serbia and return to his country, and to be where he is always welcome," Vucic is quoted as saying by Novosti.

"They think that they humiliated Djokovic, but they humiliated themselves, and he can return to his country and look everyone in the eye with his head held high."

Speaking prior to Sunday's verdict, Rafael Nadal insisted the Australian Open will be a great tournament "with or without" Djokovic.

Other big names have yet to comment on the deportation order, but women's player Alize Cornet feels Djokovic's peers could have offered more support to the Serbian.

"I know too little to judge the situation. What I know is that Novak is always the first one to stand for the players," she posted on Twitter. 

"But none of us stood for him. Be strong, Novak."

Djokovic had been due to face Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening round on Monday but will now be replaced by lucky loser Salvatore Caruso.

The ATP has confirmed that there will be no shuffling of the seeds due to Monday's schedule of playing having been released prior to the court's decision.

Joe Root declared England must make decisive changes to their Test cricket programme following their Ashes humbling – but warned that things will not "change overnight".

Australia clinched a 4-0 series victory on Sunday after another batting collapse from the visitors saw them slump to a 146-run defeat in the fifth Test in Hobart.

England had looked in a promising position to claim a first win of the series after Mark Wood's career-best 6-37 helped to dismiss the hosts for 155 in the second innings.

Rory Burns and Zak Crawley mounted a good start as they chased a target of 271, but Cameron Green (3-21) sparked another rout.

The tourists proceeded to lose all 10 wickets for 56 runs as they were bowled out for 124.

It was a pitiful end to a dreadful series from England's perspective and another indication of their problems in the longest format.

They have won only one of their past 14 Test matches since last February and, when they return to Australia in 2025, it will have been 14 years since they last won an Ashes Test away from home.

Speaking to BT Sport, captain Root said: "A number of things have to change. In the short term, guys have to learn quickly. If you want to survive at this level, you have to learn quickly. What they are lacking is the opportunities to do that at the level beforehand.

"We need to sit down and have a clear look at what direction English cricket needs to take, what direction English Test cricket needs to take to improve and improve quickly. That is not going to change overnight."

He added: "It has been a frustration throughout. We have played good cricket in parts but not managed to string a whole game together.

"We have to learn from these experiences and get better, not come away and make the same mistakes. That is the challenge moving forward."

Australia skipper Pat Cummins, meanwhile, declared his side want to make their mark on foreign soil after a resounding victory.

"It is pretty crazy," he said. "As a professional cricketer, these are the series you have in your diary a couple of years out, so to come out with so many positives and winning 4-0, I am pumped.

"It feels like we are really building to something big. Now we want to share our wares overseas."

Russell Westbrook accepts Magic Johnson's damning assessment of the Los Angeles Lakers' form, but says the legendary figure does not know what is going on internally.

The Lakers slumped to a third defeat in a row with a heavy 133-96 loss at the hands of the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

Frank Vogel's side, who were without injured Carmelo Anthony for a third straight game, now have a 21-22 record for the season and are seventh in the Western Conference.

The defeat to a Nikola Jokic-inspired Nuggets was the second biggest of LeBron James' 19-year career, and one fellow Lakers icon Johnson felt showed a lack of effort.

"After being blown out by the Nuggets, we as Lakers fans can accept being outplayed but we deserve more than a lack of effort and no sense of urgency," Johnson tweeted. 

"Owner Jeanie Buss, you deserve better."

Westbrook, who scored 19 points on 7-for-15 shooting, did not want to be drawn into a war of words with Johnson when asked for his reaction to the social media post.

"I do not have a reaction," he said. "Everybody is entitled, in this world, to their opinion – regardless of what that it is. 

"You can either take it and run with it or you can take it and put it in one ear and out the other or you cannot respond to it.

"Magic's entitled to his opinion. And he's not here every day. He's not around us every day. He's not aware of what's going on internally with us and trying to figure things out. 

"But I have no response to that. Like I said, everyone in this world is entitled to their opinion and that's that."

Reigning MVP Jokic recorded another triple-double as the Lakers slumped below .500 again in their defeat to the Nuggets.

Jokic finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 13 assists as Denver piled on 73 first-half points before restricting the Lakers to only 36 points in the second half.

And on the back of a humiliating loss, Westbrook concedes his side have to step up ahead of back-to-back home games with the Utah Jazz and the Indiana Pacers. 

"We just got to play hard," he said. "Sometimes, the schemes and how you play doesn't really matter. 

"You got to just play hard sometimes. Teams are playing harder than us, simple as that."

Dwight Howard, whose average of 5.4 points-per-game through 33 outings this season is the lowest of his career, echoed the thoughts of Westbrook.

"It's not too much I can really say about it. We've been saying it all year. I shouldn't have to keep saying. But, you know, he's right," Howard said.

"You can't stop believing that you're gonna win and just say, 'Ah, f**** it, let's give up.

"We know we've put ourselves in a pretty tough predicament, but all it takes is a couple games and some good energy and some positivity. We've just got to stay positive."

The Lakers' 37-point loss to Denver was their largest ever in this fixture and follows defeats to the Memphis Grizzlies and the Sacramento Kings in the past week.

"We've got to get back to the drawing board and get our defense right," head coach Vogel said. "We haven't performed well enough in the last two games on that side of the ball."

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