England were embarrassed at home by their arch rivals on Friday as Australia ran through their fragile batting line-up in dismissing them for 67.

Tim Paine's team seized the initiative in the third Test by skittling their hosts out inside 28 overs, raising the possibility of Australia retaining the urn and avoiding defeat in an away Ashes series for the first time since 2001.

It was a display that was not just horrifically bad, but historically bad.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at the numbers behind the horror show at Headingley.

 

- England's eventual total of 67 was their lowest ever at Headingley, where the lowest Test total of all time is 61 (West Indies in 2000).

- This capitulation followed England being dismissed for 85 by Ireland at Lord's last month. This is just the second time where England were all out for fewer than 100 twice in home Tests hosted in the same year (2019 and 1888).

- Moreover, this was the fourth time since the start of 2018 that England were all out for 85 or less. Their other paltry totals came against West Indies in January (77) and against New Zealand in March 2018 (58).

- This was England's lowest total against Australia since 1948 and their fourth lowest in a home Ashes Test.

- Having gone for a golden duck at Lord's last time out, England captain Joe Root was dismissed without score again. It is the first time in his Test career Root was out for back-to-back ducks.

- Positioned at first slip, David Warner claimed four catches - the joint-most by a fielder in an Ashes Test innings.

Eight uphill finishes will sort the men from the boys in the battle to be crowned Vuelta a Espana champion.

The final Grand Tour race of the year gets under way with a 13.4-kilometre team time trial in Las Salinas de Torrevieja on Saturday.

There will be four summit finishes in the opening nine days and the general classification tussle could really take shape in Andorra during week two of three.

We pick out a selection of what could be the key stages in the fight for the red jersey, with Primoz Roglic the favourite in the absence of the likes of Tour de France winner Egan Bernal, Chris Froome, defending champion Simon Yates and the injured Richard Carapaz.

 

STAGE NINE -  ANDORRA LA VELLA TO CORTALS D'ENCAMP

The riders will be in need of a first rest day in Pau after tackling a 94.4km route which is rated as one of the queen stages.

There will be as many as four lung-busting climbs before a final ascent of Cortals d'Encamp.

Vuelta stars face an ascent of the Coll d'Ordino and will climb to almost 2,000 metres on an 'especial' category climb of Coll de la Gallina, before a four-kilometre gravel section precedes a gruelling final push to the finish.

 

STAGE 10 - JURANCON TO PAU

After putting their feet up for a day, a 36.2km individual time trial will provide another big challenge and could have a big say in who takes the red jersey.

Winding, often steep slopes will give the time-trial specialists an opportunity to claw back some time which they may have surrendered in the mountains.

With more major tests to come in the mountains, the likes of Roglic and Wilco Kelderman will look at stage 10 as a chance to make gains.

 

STAGE 13 - BILBAO TO LOS MACHUCOS

Another huge stamina test awaits on a 166.4km trek through the mountains to the top of Los Machucos.

With seven mountain passes on a hugely challenging day, teams will have to get their tactics right as they attempt to prevent potentially pivotal moves.

Four third category ascents, two second category climbs and a daunting finish will provide a major examination of GC credentials.

 

STAGE 16 - PRAVIA TO ALTO DE LA CUBILLA

The second of three days in Asturias may also have a big say in who stands on top of the podium in Madrid.

A 144.4km stage in the mountains will include three climbs, providing magnificent views for spectators but potentially some agony for those in the saddle.

The 27km final ride up the Alto de la Cubilla is sure to lead to some heavy breathing and whoever is wearing red at the end of the day will go into the second rest day with the title in their sights.

 

STAGE 18 - COLMENAR VIEJO TO BECERRIL DE LA SIERRA

The penultimate mountain stage on Wednesday in the final week takes place in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, where Fabio Aru replaced Tom Dumoulin as race leader four years ago.

Another brutal day will be in store for the riders, who face a 177.5km ride with a downhill finish after demanding climbs of Navacerrada and La Morcuera.

They can expect high temperatures on an energy-sapping day, with a technical descent to the line after a fourth first-category climb.

For the vast majority of the 21st century, grand slam finals have largely been the domain of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Their dominance, shared somewhat with Andy Murray, has defined the modern era of the men's game. However, it has been most regularly interrupted at the US Open, which starts on Monday.

Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka have each prevailed in the past five years at Flushing Meadows, with Kei Nishikori, Kevin Anderson and Juan Martin del Potro all reaching the final in that time.

The most likely outcome remains that the men's final will be contested by at least one of the big three but, ahead of the final major of 2019, we examine some of the contenders to gatecrash the showpiece.

Daniil Medvedev

The world number five is enjoying a breakthrough year and heads to Flushing Meadows as one of the form players on the ATP Tour. He reached successive finals at the Citi Open and Rogers Cup, easing past the likes of Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov en route to the showpiece of the latter.

His heavy 6-3 6-0 defeat to Nadal in that final may have provided cause for reticence. However, Medvedev continued his outstanding US hard-court swing by coming from a set down to defeat Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Western and Southern Open, before going on to beat David Goffin in the final.

His fightback against the best player in the world should raise confidence he can upset the established order. It will be tougher over five sets but on current form Medvedev appears the most credible threat to the big three.

Karen Khachanov

Khachanov's year has not been quite as impressive as his Russian compatriot Medvedev. However, he too resides in the top 10 and has a victory over Djokovic to his name, having beaten the Serbian in the Paris Masters final last year.

He was impressive in seeing off Stan Wawrinka, rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alexander Zverev at the Rogers Cup and showed signs he could form a grand slam challenge at his run to the quarter-finals of the French Open this year.

Marat Safin, the last Russian man to win a grand slam, was Khachanov's idol growing up. He has the game to potentially emulate his hero, but a 1-8 record against the big three will leave plenty sceptical of his prospects.

Dominic Thiem

Though not in the same vein of form as Medvedev, Thiem deserves his place on the list having been the most consistent challenger to Djokovic, Nadal and Federer in recent times.

He has reached the last two French Open finals, losing to Nadal on each occasion. However, he defeated Djokovic in five sets at Roland Garros this year and played at a level in the final that would have seen him victorious were he facing anyone other than the 'King of Clay'.

The hard court provides more of a level playing field and Nadal needed a tie-break to beat him in five sets in the quarter-final at Flushing Meadows in 2018. Thiem also holds a 4-2 record against Federer, whom he beat at Indian Wells this year. 

Eventually, Thiem's persistence in pushing this legendary trio to the limit will pay off and there is plenty of evidence to suggest the US Open could be the stage on which he reaps his rewards.

Roberto Bautista Agut

While the other four names on this list have their best years ahead of them, Bautista Agut is arguably enjoying an elongated peak.

He was a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open, where he showed his endurance with three five-set victories and pushed Djokovic to four sets in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

The 31-year-old has since found some consistency on the hard court, reaching the last eight in Montreal and Cincinnati, and came from a set down to beat Djokovic in Miami back in March.

That win, however, marked his only success against a big-three opponent. Bautista Agut has proven he can reach the latter stages of majors but, if the draw does not somehow open up for him, would need to overcome the history books to earn a first slam final berth.

Lucas Pouille

Pouille's thrilling 2016 fourth-round triumph over Nadal at Flushing Meadows had the look of a breakthrough moment for the Frenchman, but since then he has not been able to record a single victory over the Spaniard, Djokovic or Federer.

The 25-year-old does, however, seem to enjoy himself on the hard court, securing the best slam result of his career on the surface as he progressed to the last four at the Australian Open before running into a rampant Djokovic.

He beat Khachanov before being thumped by Djokovic in Cincinnati and, though he has endured an inconsistent year, the high-points Pouille has experienced should leave him with nobody to fear outside of the three favourites. 

Pouille is unquestionably an outsider, but if he can harness the form that saw him stun Nadal then he can at least afford to have hope of pulling off another shock and giving France a grand slam finalist to celebrate.

For the second time this year, the dominant Team INEOS are heading into a Grand Tour without their three star riders.

Both Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas sat out the Giro d'Italia, while a broken collarbone saw Egan Bernal denied the opportunity to step up.

Seven-time Grand Tour winner Froome then left Thomas and Bernal in charge for the Tour de France as he missed out with fractures to his right femur, elbow and ribs sustained in training during the Criterium du Dauphine.

But after Bernal claimed his first title in the veteran's absence, the Colombian opted not to enter the Vuelta this year.

Thomas is likewise skipping the race, having finished second in Paris, and Froome is still recovering from his injuries, leaving INEOS light on star power once again.

So who will head the charge for cycling's outstanding outfit? We take a look at the team leaders and the rest of the line-up in Spain.

 

TAO GEOGHEGAN HART

This is a second big opportunity for Geoghegan Hart, who was one of those selected to lead the way for a youthful INEOS team at the Giro.

It was not a particularly successful outing for the team and a large part of that was due to Geoghegan Hart's crash on stage 13 that ruled him out of the race with a broken right clavicle. Co-leader Pavel Sivakov finished ninth in the general classification.

But the Briton – a strong all-rounder – is still just 24, is now 12 months on from his Grand Tour debut at last year's Vuelta, and has strong performances at the Tour of the Alps and Tour de Pologne under his belt.

As Froome and Thomas get on in age, it is time for Geoghegan Hart to stake a serious claim – or risk being left behind by a team that could soon belong to Bernal.

WOUT POELS

Where Geoghegan Hart is still raw, climber Poels provides real experience.

"The opportunity for Tao to learn from Wout as they lead our team is a special one and we have faith that both of them can leave their mark on this Vuelta," lead sport director Nicolas Portal said.

Poels has often played a supporting role in the bigger races during his INEOS career, but his best Grand Tour GC performance came at the Vuelta in 2017, a sixth-place finish. His only stage win at a Grand Tour was in Spain, too, with Vacansoleil in 2011.

The Dutchman has the talent to go on and challenge himself, as well as the experience to assist Geoghegan Hart, depending on how the race pans out for INEOS.

THE SUPPORTING CAST

INEOS hailed a contrast of youth and experience when they named the team and Owain Doull is the one Grand Tour debutant in the line-up, having played a role in four winning squads this year.

At the other end of the scale, the know-how comes in the form of Vasil Kiryienka, Salvatore Puccio and Ian Stannard. Kiryienka is 38 and making his 20th Grand Tour appearance, with the other two regulars in winning teams.

Sebastian Henao has taken on five Giros with relative success and will get a first Vuelta opportunity.

There was one last, late change to the team, meanwhile, as Kenny Elissonde – a former Vuelta stage winner – was replaced by David de la Cruz, who finished seventh in 2016 and 15th last year.

Maurizio Sarri's start to life as Juventus boss was hardly going swimmingly before he was left tackling a bout of pneumonia this week.

After a frankly disorientating year at Chelsea, which amounted to speculation over his future and criticism of his fabled playing style being stitched together by the momentary distraction of bi-weekly football matches, Sarri won the Europa League, finished third in the Premier League and landed the Juve job. It felt like the football equivalent of getting out of jail and building a house on Park Lane in the same Monopoly move.

Board room and dressing room at Stamford Bridge never felt in harmony, but it no longer mattered. The former Napoli boss would now helm the slick and formidable football empire he came closer than many to toppling.

Or so he might have thought. Cutting into a reporter's question after Juve lost 2-1 to Atletico Madrid in the International Champions Cup, Sarri launched something approaching a tirade on Paulo Dybala's mooted exit and the need to trim Juve's Champions League squad. He called their transfer policy "embarrassing".

Some moves this close season – namely the capture of quality free agents in the form of Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot – are identifiable from the old Juventus playbook. But part-exchange deals that lessen the quality of the squad and generally appearing reactive rather than proactive should be a cause for concern.

Out with the new, in with the old

Moise Kean is one of the most exciting striking talents in Europe but was allowed to move to Everton. Centre-forward cover now comes from Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic – one back after two shocking loan spells and another 14 years older than Kean and apparently being hawked around Europe himself.

A chunk of cash accompanied Danilo from Manchester City for a reason, as the inconsistent but lavishly gifted (and, once again, younger) Joao Cancelo moved in the other direction. A swap deal featuring Dybala and Romelu Lukaku, now shipped from Manchester United to Inter, would have been far stranger.

Indeed, Dybala only remains a Juve player for now due to the tangled web of his image rights arrangements. Leonardo Spinazzola joining Roma to bring Luca Pellegrini the other way, only to loan the latter back to Cagliari, also suggested muddled thinking.

The steady improvement throughout Massimiliano Allegri's tenure brought two Champions League final defeats. In between losing to Barcelona and Real Madrid in 2015 and 2017, Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Alvaro Morata were among the players to leave, yet Juventus improved on account of shrewd coaching and a transfer policy that was a step ahead.

Then, last year, the Turin giants bet the farm on Cristiano Ronaldo. The Champions League did not follow and Allegri left.

Matthijs de Ligt is one of the most eye-catching signings of the window but Juve hardly needed centre-backs and now appear to be scrabbling to recoup the cash. Like Sarri, there are understandable doubts over whether sporting director Fabio Paratici is cut out for a leading role at the Allianz Stadium.

Paratici's influence increased after Beppe Marotta's departure last year. Marotta is now leading operations at Inter for the man who launched this Juventus dynasty.

Conte's Inter ready for lift-off

"I never set limits – I don't want to create excuses," Antonio Conte said at his first news conference as Inter boss, his new club having come fourth - 21 points shy of Juve - last time around

The former Italy coach is something of a specialist in these situations. The year before he began Juventus' title streak in 2011-12, they finished seventh. At Chelsea, he took them from 10th to Premier League glory in a season.

Some of Conte's subsequent discontent in west London related to a failure to sign Lukaku. Now he has his man – the "point of reference" centre-forward crucial to all his best sides.

Manchester United fans will undoubtedly guffaw at the prospect of Alexis Sanchez joining a fellow Old Trafford flop at San Siro, but harnessing two players with a point to prove to Jose Mourinho in a bid to topple Sarri – the man who took his previous job – feels deliciously up Conte's street.

Valentino Lazaro, Matteo Politano, Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi look like shrewd buys alongside the formidable Diego Godin and Inter can be expected to hit the ground running when they host Lecce on Monday.

Napoli have finished as runners-up in the past two seasons and Hirving Lozano would be an exciting acquisition in attack, while there is unlikely to be a centre-back pairing anywhere as formidable as Kalidou Koulibaly and Kostas Manolas.

Carlo Ancelotti's men should certainly not be discounted, but the winds of change ahead of an intriguing Serie A season appear to be blowing in Inter and Conte's direction.

It's been all change in Serie A ahead of the 2019-20 season, with five of last season's top six changing their head coach.

As such, an action-packed close season in the transfer market followed.

Champions Juventus have done big business, but could any of the chasing pack - including Antonio Conte's Inter - catch them after a busy window?

Although Italian clubs can buy until September 2, we take a look at five of the best signings in Serie A before the action gets underway.

 

5. Aaron Ramsey (Juventus)

Juventus are the masters of the free transfer and nothing changed this year, with two huge midfield signings arriving without a fee. Adrien Rabiot is a massive talent who will improve Maurizio Sarri's options, but Ramsey may well prove the real star.

In an Arsenal team where big wages and large fees were spent on the likes of Mesut Ozil, Ramsey was perhaps their most consistent performer, playing a key role in their FA Cup successes.

The Gunners will likely rue the expiration of Ramsey's contract and the Welshman already looks like he will settle quickly in Turin, after giving an introductory statement to the media in Italian.

4. Radja Nainggolan (Cagliari)

Nainggolan was one of Europe's dominant midfielders just a couple of years ago, so it seems incredible that he is on loan at Cagliari at the age of 31.

But after falling out of favour with Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, Nainggolan had a stop-start first season at Inter - although his form picked up towards the end of the campaign - and Conte has seemingly decided he does not need the former Roma man.

All of this works out wonderfully for Cagliari, though, who had Nainggolan for four years earlier in his career and will welcome him back with open arms. His midfield alliance with Nahitan Nandez, an exciting acquisition from Boca Juniors, will be a must watch.

3. Diego Godin (Inter)

Godin has perhaps been Europe's best centre-back in recent seasons and so, even at 33, his expiring Atletico Madrid contract would have made him a target for many top sides.

But this move to Inter was long mooted and he should form a formidable three-man defence alongside Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar.

If Conte's reign at the Nerazzurri is to be a success, they will need to deliver at both ends of the field. It is on Romelu Lukaku's shoulders to provide the goals, while Godin will surely perform at the back, even if he endured a rocky campaign last time out.

2. Kostas Manolas (Napoli)

This list might be dominated by centre-backs and Serie A, to many the home of defending, will see some of the very best in action again next season. Manolas is certainly among them.

The Greece international might be best remembered for his Champions League goalscoring exploits at Roma, but he was a consistent star in defence over five seasons in the capital.

Quick and strong enough to mix it with Serie A's very best attackers, Manolas will leave a big hole in the Roma back line and instantly find a home at Napoli alongside Kalidou Koulibaly.

1. Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)

It is an obvious answer, but every club on the planet would have loved to have brought in former Ajax captain De Ligt.

He was inspirational both on and off the pitch for the Dutch giants last season, as well as starring for Netherlands. Brilliant at the back and a threat in attack, De Ligt is still just 20, too, and will only get better.

That he cost a relatively reasonable €75million, considering the reported £80million spent on Harry Maguire, is merely a bonus. Juve should be set for years to come.

The wait for the new Serie A season is almost over and, remarkably, five of last season's top six will be entering the 2019-20 campaign with new faces at the helm.

Champions Juventus surprisingly parted company with Massimiliano Allegri and replaced him with Maurizio Sarri despite winning the title yet again, although runners-up Napoli have stuck with Carlo Ancelotti.

Inter and AC Milan both appointed new head coaches, with Antonio Conte and Marco Giampaolo taking charge respectively, while Paulo Fonseca is the new man in the Roma dugout.

We look at how the four new men have fared previously in Serie A to see how things might pan out with their new clubs.

 

Maurizio Sarri (Juventus)

Perhaps the most daunting task awaits Sarri next season, as he attempts to follow in the footsteps of Allegri, who won five consecutive Scudetti.

Indeed, the last campaign in which the Bianconeri did not win the title was 2010-11, and if Sarri cannot sustain their dominance his spell in Turin could be short-lived.

Sarri joins with an outstanding Serie A record behind him, however. He enjoyed a superb three-year spell with Napoli before his departure at the end of the 2017-18 season, winning 69 per cent of his 114 league games in charge.

Juve fans will be excited to see if he can successfully instil his free-flowing football at the Allianz Stadium – Napoli's 251 goals during his tenure was 13 more than any other side.

He does, though, start the season in poor health after being diagnosed with pneumonia.

Antonio Conte (Inter)

Luciano Spalletti secured a second successive top-four finish last season, meaning Conte will juggle Campions League commitments alongside his bid to dethrone Juve as the dominant side in Serie A.

That is unlikely to phase a man who has won each of the three Serie A campaigns he has started when in charge of the Bianconeri.

Conte – who will have Romelu Lukaku leading the line following his arrival from Manchester United – ended his first league campaign with Juve unbeaten and did not taste defeat until his 49th league match.

What Inter fans would give to see a repeat performance this season.

Marco Giampaolo (AC Milan)

Giampaolo, 52, joined Milan after leaving fellow Serie A side Sampdoria, who he guided to ninth in the last of his three seasons in charge.

Having spent time in charge of Cagliari, Brescia and Empoli among others, Giampaolo is expected to bring stability to San Siro after churning through six full-time head coaches since Allegri's departure in 2014.

Giampaolo's task will be, on the face of it, a simple one – gain qualification for the Champions League. Gennaro Gattuso's failure to do just that ultimately cost the Milan icon his job at San Siro.

It is something that the new man has yet to achieve in his managerial career, but his attacking brand of football will certainly please the club's supporters.

Only four clubs in Serie A last season scored more goals than Sampdoria, while they boasted the best shot conversion rate in the division, scoring with 12.3 per cent of their efforts.

Paulo Fonseca (Roma)

Roma narrowly missed out on a place in next season's Champions League, leaving new coach Fonseca in charge of a club in need of a morale-boosting return to Serie A's top four.

The Giallorossi will still be expected to progress in the Europa League and Fonseca arrives in Rome with a strong track record in continental competition, having guided Shakhtar Donetsk to the last 16 of the Champions League in 2017-18.

He enjoyed a superb three years in Ukraine, winning three league titles, three domestic cups and the Ukrainian Super Cup.

He left Shakhtar with a 78 per cent win ratio in the league and guided them to a whopping 23 clean sheets from their 32 games.

The Premier League's top two in this embryonic 2019-20 season go head to head on Saturday as Liverpool host Arsenal.

The two sides took contrasting approaches to the transfer window, with European champions Liverpool largely setting for the same squad again, as Arsenal splashed out on Nicolas Pepe, Kieran Tierney and David Luiz.

But both tactics have been rewarded with early season results, meaning the division's only remaining 100 per cent records are on the line at Anfield.

At least one of those winning starts will end and, with the help of Opta data, we take a look at the intriguing contest ahead.

 

CAN ARSENAL BREACH FORTRESS ANFIELD?

Arsenal will have their work cut out if they are to end a miserable run of six Premier League games without victory at Anfield, a stadium where they have lost 13 times in the competition - second only to Manchester United's Old Trafford.

That stretch of six matches has also seen the Gunners concede at least two goals per game and a concerning 22 in total.

Liverpool are not in the business of dropping points at home and, in fact, they are unbeaten in 41 matches there. Only Chelsea's sensational 86-match streak, that ended in October 2008, can top that.

Far from flat-track bullies, the Reds' form is dominant against the recognised 'top six', too, against whom they are unbeaten in 18 at Anfield, winning 10.

Last season's 5-1 win for Liverpool in this fixture provides a reminder of just how badly things could go wrong for Arsenal.

 

HEAD TO HEAD: MOHAMED SALAH V NICOLAS PEPE

Mohamed Salah scored in that demolition and will aim to star again on Saturday. In the visiting dressing room, Pepe will hope to echo the Egyptian's impact following a club-record transfer.

Pepe's statistics in his final season with Lille were similarly outstanding to Salah's in the last campaign at Roma that saw him earn the Liverpool move.

Salah had 15 goals and 11 assists for 26 in total or one every 95.6 minutes. Pepe, meanwhile, scored an impressive 22 and also laid on 11, with his 33 goal involvements occurring every 100.8 minutes.

There were comparisons to be drawn between their styles, yet Pepe perhaps surprisingly attempted more dribbles (213 versus 70) and won more fouls (108 versus 26) than Salah, who is renowned in the Premier League for his close control and ability to draw challenges.

Arsenal will hope Pepe can translate his form to English football with the same success.

 

FORM GUIDE

Liverpool's home record might worry Pepe and Arsenal, but their outstanding form is not confined to Anfield. The Reds are enjoying a club-record Premier League run of victories (11 matches), and another win on Saturday would see them tie their all-time league streak of 12.

Arsenal will surely have to stop Klopp's attack to get a result.

The last time Liverpool dropped points in the Premier League was a goalless draw against Everton in March. The same result against fellow rivals Manchester United a week earlier was the only other time in 32 league games they have failed to score.

Arsenal - on a three-match top-flight winning run - have not won four on the bounce in almost a year, while victory would also see the Gunners triumph in the first three games of a Premier League campaign for the first time since 2004-05, when they were last defending champions.

 

HISTORY SAYS...

Expect goals! Clashes between Liverpool and Arsenal have had 155 - more than any other Premier League fixture.

While Salah is a threat, Roberto Firmino will hope to be in the mix again, too, as the Brazilian has seven goals in four games in this fixture at Anfield.

Where Liverpool's front men could be backed to fire, though, the same might not be true of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He has scored just three goals in 13 games against 'top six' opposition, compared to 31 in 38 against the rest of the league.

Liverpool will certainly be favourites - unbeaten in eight against Arsenal, their best such run since February 2000 - and Klopp has never lost to the Gunners.

Whatever happens at Headingley and beyond, Marnus Labuschagne will struggle to ever forget his first innings in Ashes cricket.

The Australia batsman made history when becoming the first concussion sub as a replacement for Steve Smith on the final day of the second Test against England at Lord's. After ducking his first delivery from Jofra Archer, the next one struck him flush in the grille – Labuschagne was down (albeit not for long) but, crucially, not out.

Rising to his feet so quickly a boxing referee would barely have started counting to 10, the 25-year-old recovered his senses, survived the oncoming barrage of short stuff and came out the other side with a half-century, a valiant knock in trying circumstances that helped preserve his side's slender 1-0 series lead.

It was not the first time Labuschagne had capitalised on an unexpected chance that came his way, though.

When Shaun Marsh was selected in Australia’s squad for the Cricket World Cup earlier this year, Glamorgan had to find a new overseas player in a hurry.

Mark Wallace, relatively new into his role as director of cricket at the Welsh county, followed up on a tip-off from an old club colleague Down Under to fill the void, taking a "bit of a punt" on Labuschagne, a player with an unspectacular first-class record but a hunger to improve.

"The link between myself and Marnus is that we have played for the same grade club in Brisbane, which is Redlands Tigers, albeit I played 15 years before he did," Wallace explained to Omnisport.

"Our paths never crossed, but when I took on the job [in February] I received a text message from a lad I had played with out there called Blair Copeland who is now a coach. He said, 'if you're looking for an overseas player, there is a lad who plays at the club called Marnus Labuschagne'.  

"I'd heard of Marnus because he had played for Australia by then, but I probably thought this was more like the sort of thing where he [Blair] was one of his mates, so I said thank you and got on with things.

"But when Shaun Marsh was picked for the World Cup, we suddenly needed an overseas player. I went back and had a look at this guy, did a bit of digging around, and the message we kept getting about him was that he was a good player but he was going to be an influence around the dressing room and just wanted to play cricket, wanted to get better at the game, and that was what we were after.

"We wanted a different style of overseas player, someone who was young and hungry. We went for him and it worked out pretty well."

Pretty well is an understatement.

Labuschagne amassed 1,114 runs in 10 first-class games for Glamorgan, hitting five centuries. The first of them arrived on his County Championship debut, Northamptonshire the opponents, while there was a match-saving 182 to deny Sussex down by the seaside at Hove and then hundreds in both innings against Worcestershire towards the end of his stint.

"We weren't surprised because he's a good player – we just didn't know he was that good," Wallace admitted. "We haven't genuinely got a bad word to say about him. He just wanted to talk cricket, be involved in cricket and get better.

"It was a little bit of a punt, but we wanted someone different and all the feedback had been how this was a young, influential guy. He was just desperate to improve and county cricket really suited him.

"He just loved playing – with most overseas [players] the thing that strikes them when they come over is the amount we play, whereas with Marnus he just thought that was brilliant. It gave him the opportunity to play all the time, to practice all the time.

"He got a hundred in his first game and never took his foot off the gas after that."

Labuschagne's county performances boosted his Test prospects, yet he still appeared set for a watching brief during the Ashes. That was until Smith was struck by an Archer bouncer, a blow on the neck that created a ripple effect that seems set to be felt by both sides for the remainder of the series.

It also created a sudden opening in the middle order. Smith's stand-in received an early and emphatic wake-up call yet refused to be counted out of the contest, aided by a slight technical tweak to his game that was honed while playing with Glamorgan.

"He did a few things that I think he had developed from being over here," revealed Wallace.

"Marnus clicked with our coach, Matt Maynard, early on and they worked on something where he would take a step down the wicket, as well as over to the off stump. The aim is to take lbw out [of the equation] and you saw him do it a few times to Chris Woakes.

"It was good to see, because you spot something guys have done with you working then on the bigger stage, which for our young guys means they are thinking, 'crikey, Marnus has been working on something here that has transferred into a higher level'. That's great.

"He's very good at solving problems, too. He's so into the game that he's always trying to learn. He's desperate to do well, although all international cricketers are like that. But he's up for the scrap, up for the fight."

After doing an admirable job as a stand-in last time out, the super sub gets the chance to start in the third Test.

Australia head coach Justin Langer said in the build-up to the game in Leeds that Smith has "unfillable shoes" – he has contributed 32 per cent of his team's runs in the first two Tests (and that is without even making it out to the middle on day five at Lord's) and boasts a mind-bending career average of 63.24 in the longest format.

Wallace acknowledges it is a nigh on impossible for Labuschagne to fill the crate-like space left at number four, but expects him to embrace the challenge: "To put him in the same bracket as Steve Smith is just unfair – he is still a young guy making his way in Test cricket.

"But he will have a chance – and all sport is about to take that chance when you get it. He will be up for it and can probably have a positive effect on the series.

"We'd like to see him do well, albeit from our perspective we want England to win. Marnus getting a hundred and England winning by an innings would be perfect."

Glamorgan are hopeful they get the chance to bring Labuschagne back at some stage in the future – so long as they can afford him.

"We would like him to be part of the club long term – hopefully the price hasn't gone up!" Wallace joked.

"I've been speaking to him since he has been away with Australia and he's still in contact, still wishing us good luck. The day the Australia squad was announced I actually spoke to him in the morning, when he was going to meet Justin Langer to find out if he was in or not, and he was not entirely sure.

"We had a Twenty20 game that night, and he said that if he was not in the squad, could he play that evening. I said yes, because we hadn't cancelled his registration yet, but that just showed how he has that nice, childlike enthusiasm just to play the game."

Labuschagne's enthusiasm for the game was evident at Lord's. So, too, was his determination to seize an opportunity that had unexpectedly come his way. As Glamorgan will testify, he's good at doing that.

The final grand slam tournament of the year is almost here, as the US Open begins at Flushing Meadows on Monday.

Novak Djokovic, the dominant force in men's tennis, will hope to defend his title, while Naomi Osaka is looking to rediscover her best major form at the scene of her first triumph.

Meanwhile, veterans Roger Federer and Serena Williams have records in their sights in New York.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at the key numbers heading into this year's US Open.

 

Men's singles

4 - Djokovic has won four of the past five grand slams – Rafael Nadal claiming the only other title at this year's French Open.

2 - World number one Djokovic is bidding to become just the second man, after Federer (2004 to 2008), to defend his Flushing Meadows title in the 21st century.

35 - The oldest men's US Open champion in the Open Era was Ken Rosewall in 1970 at 35 years, 10 months and 11 days. Federer will be 38 at Flushing Meadows.

5 - Three men have won the tournament a record five times since the sport went professional: Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Federer.

8 - Djokovic only has three US Open titles but has played the joint-most finals in the Open Era (eight, along with Ivan Lendl and Sampras).

0 - The US Open is the only one of the four men's grand slams that has not seen a player claim the title without dropping a set in the Open Era.

61 - At least one of Djokovic, Federer or Nadal has made the semi-finals of every major since Wimbledon 2004, a streak of 61 tournaments.

 

Women's singles

3 - Having won back-to-back majors in the shape of last year's US Open and then the Australian Open, Osaka has not been past the third round at her past two grand slams, losing her opener at Wimbledon.

1 - But across the previous 16 grand slams, Osaka is the only female to have won consecutive titles.

33 - Williams, like Federer in the men's tournament, is aiming to become the oldest women's US Open champion of the Open Era at 37. The record belongs to 2015 champion Flavia Pennetta at 33 years, six months and 18 days.

2 - Simona Halep could become the first European since Kim Clijsters (2010 US Open and 2011 Australian Open) to win consecutive grand slams.

24 - Williams has 23 grand slam crowns, the most of the Open Era, and another would see her draw level with all-time record holder Margaret Court.

10 - However, the American has not won any of the past 10 majors - her longest run without victory since 2002.

17 - The women's championship has been won without dropping a set on 17 occasions in the Open Era, most recently by Williams in 2014.

Franck Ribery is to take on a new challenge in Serie A at the age of 36, having agreed a deal to join Fiorentina.

The winger has signed for La Viola on a free transfer after leaving Bayern Munich at the end of last season.

Ribery enjoyed 12 hugely successful years in Munich but is excited by the prospect of playing for "a big team" in "a beautiful city", while others of a similar age elect to wind down their careers on less high-profile shores.

The former Marseille man says he spoke with ex-team-mate Luca Toni before accepting Fiorentina's offer - a wise decision, given Toni is one of only four people to have represented both clubs as player or head coach.

Below, we look at how the others got on...

Stefan Effenberg
Bayern: 1990-92
Fiorentina:1992-94
Bayern (again): 1998-02

Although best known for his success at the heart of the midfield of Bayern - where he won three Bundesligas and the 2001 Champions League among nine trophies in total - Effenberg did spend two years in Tuscany.

Joining at the age of 24 after Lothar Matthaus had returned to Bayern to take his place, Effenberg endured a miserable first season as Fiorentina were relegated from Serie A. He helped them bounce straight back to the top flight as Serie B champions, though, before returning to Germany with Borussia Monchengladbach.

 

Mario Gomez
Bayern: 2009-13
Fiorentina: 2013-16

Gomez won the treble in 2012-13 in his final season with Bayern before heading to Florence, having scored 113 goals in 174 appearances in all competitions and lifted seven trophies.

The striker's time in Italy was unlucky, though, with knee ligament damage restricting him to only 21 starts in Serie A before he was loaned to Besiktas for the 2015-16 campaign. He helped them win the Turkish Super Lig.

 

Franck Ribery
Bayern: 2007-19
Fiorentina: 2019-?

Winning 23 trophies in 12 seasons is remarkable by anyone's standards, and it highlights just how important Ribery has been to Bayern's restoration as the pre-eminent force in German football over the past decade.

The treble of 2012-13 was his crowning achievement and should, arguably, have seen him win the Ballon d'Or. Since then, injuries have begun to take their toll, and it is unclear just how effective the Frenchman will prove to be in Italy.
 

Luca Toni
Fiorentina: 2005-07
Bayern: 2007-10
Fiorentina (again): 2012-13

Toni won the World Cup with Italy midway through an impressive first spell with Fiorentina, prompting Bayern to spend a reported €11.6million to take the striker to Germany.

Three domestic trophies in his first season were followed by a more fallow spell, however, while an Achilles injury and disagreements with coach Louis van Gaal led to his departure in 2010. A return to Fiorentina would come three years later, where he enjoyed a single productive season before heading for Hellas Verona.

 

Giovanni Trapattoni
Bayern: 1994-95
Bayern (again): 1996-98
Fiorentina: 1998-00

For a man who turned out for just two clubs as a player, Trapattoni has certainly enjoyed a nomadic coaching career.

He was twice Bayern boss, winning the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and DFB-Ligapokal in his second spell, before he returned to Italy with Fiorentina. Those two years in Florence ended trophyless, but they were enough to land him the job with the national team.

Sheffield United have started well on their return to the big time, gaining four points from their opening two Premier League games.

The Blades have been to League One and back since they were last in the Premier League in 2007, spending six seasons in the third tier before gaining promotion to the Championship in 2017 under Chris Wilder's stewardship.

Wilder, a Blades fan and former player, has ushered in a new style of play at Bramall Lane, which bore plentiful fruit as his side edged out Yorkshire rivals Leeds United to finish second in the Championship last term.

Over the course of last season, Wilder adopted a 3-5-2 system, encouraging his team to play out from the back and get forward in numbers.

A key feature of United's play their overlapping centre-backs and, using Opta data, we have assessed just how the Blades' system works.

 

Three at the back... with a twist

Wilder's switch to a back three propelled United up the Championship and it is a fascinating, inspired approach.

The Blades' centre-backs are commonly Jack O'Connell, John Egan and Chris Basham, while Phil Jagielka rejoined the club in the off-season and provides an experienced head from the bench if required.

United's defenders are all comfortable with the ball at their feet and, while in possession, the two wider centre-backs – typically O'Connell and Basham – are given license to push on.

That allows the wing-backs to drive further forward, forcing opposing full-backs and wingers to defend, while rival midfielders must also draw wide to cover the advancing centre-backs.

Space is subsequently opened up in the middle of the park, with Oliver Norwood often dropping deep to dictate the play.

John Lundstram – whose goal earned a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday – and John Fleck press high to join the strikers, providing United with six attacking options within their opponents' half.

High risk, high reward

The decision to commit so many players forward does, of course, leave United open on the counter-attack.

However, Wilder's side play with pace and aggression once over the halfway line, a fact reflected by their attempted 12,579 passes in the opposition half over the course of the 2018-19 Championship campaign – the most of any team in the second tier.

Of those attempted passes, 8,720 were successful, while United's players had 1,251 touches in the opposition box, a tally which ranked behind only Leeds and champions Norwich City.

Though United's wing-backs do push further up the field, Wilder's men are not overly reliant on crosses into the area, with their total of 720 coming in as the sixth highest in the Championship last term.

Once United do have the ball in the area, last season's top scorer Billy Sharp is often the player to wrap up the move, though club-record signing Ollie McBurnie may be expected to fill that role this season. 

Basham had 78 touches in the opposition box last season, ranking at 11th in the Championship, while the centre-back also created 29 chances. Only Enda Stevens provided more goalscoring opportunities for United. 

Defensive solidity

Wilder's system may allow United's attacking players to thrive, but it also enables the Blades to remain steady in defence.

Though the centre-backs may get caught out by a pass in behind, the three defenders do remain in their shape while in possession, screening the width of the pitch.

While defending, the wing-backs tuck inside, with Norwood and the two more advanced midfielders dropping back to provide a barrier in front of the back three.

United's lack of pace up top could prove an issue if the Blades are pushed deep into their third, though the arrival of Callum Robinson from Preston North End does mean an out ball is available, while McBurnie or David McGoldrick are capable of holding up the play.

Against stronger teams, Wilder's system may well be found out, but so far United's commitment to their style of play is working out just fine.

England pushed hard to level the series in a rain-affected second Test at Lord's and were given a new lease of life by Jofra Archer.

But Australia and their batsman came through a serious examination to keep their 1-0 lead intact going into the third encounter at Headingley.

Following that dramatic draw, Joe Root's men have renewed impetus and Aussie talisman Steve Smith has been ruled out, having been struck by a brute of a bouncer from paceman Archer.

Here, we look at the key Opta numbers heading into what is sure to be another gripping battle.


11 – Of the 20 times batsmen of both teams were struck on the helmet or body at Lord's, Archer was responsible for 11. Only one other such blow came from an England bowler.

8 – Australia are unbeaten in their past eight Tests against England, winning six and drawing two. The last time they put a longer Ashes streak together was 18 matches between 1987 and 1993.

1 – The tourists only need one more victory from the remaining three games to retain the Ashes. They last avoided defeat in a series in England was 2001.

4 – Peter Siddle has seen four catches dropped off his bowling in the series so far – twice as many as any other bowler.

459 – Travis Head has more runs in Test cricket than any other player in 2019, averaging 76.5. England would be well advised to target the stumps as four of his past five dismissals have been lbw.

42 – Stuart Broad has 42 Test wickets at Headingley at an average of 26.8. Three more this week and he will surpass the 44 achieved by Yorkshire great Fred Trueman on his own ground and become the most prolific wicket taker at the Leeds venue in the longest format.

2014 – The last time back-to-back Test matches in England were drawn.

7 – Seven of the past nine Tests at Headingley have been won by the team to lose the toss – a sequence that started with Australia's innings and 80-run triumph in August 2009. That was the fourth time in five visits to Leeds the men in baggy greens have emerged victorious.

2 – England's previous two wins at Headingley, either side of a five-wicket loss to West Indies in 2017, came by an innings.

Steve Smith has been ruled out of the third Ashes Test due to a concussion suffered at Lord's last week.

The Australia batsman was struck on the neck by a fierce bouncer from England debutant Jofra Archer on day four.

Although Smith returned to resume his innings on Saturday, Cricket Australia (CA) announced the 30-year-old would not play any part on the final day of the second Test.

And following that draw, Smith will also now miss the third Test at Headingley.

Before his absence was confirmed, Omnisport spoke to expert Dr Sam Barke, medical director of Return2Play, about Smith's concussion, the delayed symptoms and the protocol for returning to action.

 

CA said Smith "passed the CogSport and SCAT5 assessments" when he came off the pitch at Lord's, so why was the concussion not spotted then?

The key to those tests is there is not really a pass-fail situation, it's just evidence building. Along with how the player is responding, how they're feeling and their symptoms, we do these tests to gather as much evidence as possible to try and work out whether the concussion has happened.

Unfortunately, there is not a 100 per cent test at the moment for concussion. It's adding all those pieces of evidence together to try and be as sure as we can.

Not infrequently we end up with situations like we had with Steve Smith where all the evidence from those tests has said, 'No, we don't think a concussion has happened'. Then further down the line symptoms start to come on.

It was later revealed that Smith suffered a "delayed concussion response" – what is that?

The concussion itself hasn't been delayed. He had concussion from moment one. It's that he wasn't showing any signs or symptoms that concern that until now.

In my experience, the vast majority of time players do have some symptoms at the immediate point of injury and then they go away very, very quickly. It may have been by the time they got out there he was feeling absolutely fine.

So it looks like the Australia medical staff followed all the procedures correctly?

We reckon that probably about 10-to-20 per cent of concussions have that delay in onset.

As an outsider, it looks like everything's been done correctly and the right decisions have been made at every point, and he unfortunately fits into that small category of players that look fine at the time and then go on to develop symptoms further down the line.

The third Test begins on Thursday and, per CA's concussion policy, Smith must not play or train until at least 24 hours after he has been cleared by the doctor. What is the process for a player returning to their sport and why do medics have to be careful?

You shouldn't be doing any activity until your symptoms have settled. In professional rugby they say you have to be 24 hours symptom-free before you start doing any sort of exercise. The theory is most people start to feel well when they do absolutely nothing and we want to see whether any symptoms come back with exertion and mental strain, so you gradually start to introduce exercise.

The big thing about concussion and the way you manage it, is the risk comes from further injury, not the initial injury. The risks from a one-off knock that's treated well are almost non-existent, but while the brain's still recovering, if it takes further knocks, that's when risks happen.

Australia were dealt a huge Ashes blow on Tuesday when Steve Smith was ruled out of the third Test at Headingley.

Smith has been in quite incredible form in England, with knocks of 144 and 142 at Edgbaston as the tourists took a 1-0 lead, before following up with 92 at Lord's.

But with Smith suffering a concussion at the Home of Cricket, Australia could only battle bravely to a draw and the series remains tantalisingly in the balance.

Smith is not fit to feature in Leeds and England will understandably be eager to take on a batting order missing its brightest star.

Who could step up for Australia and prove they are not a one-man show? We take a look.

 

DAVID WARNER

Warner, like Smith, is playing Test cricket for the first time since a 12-month ban for his involvement in the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year.

But unlike Smith, the former vice-captain has performed dismally, failing to rediscover the form that made him one of the world's best openers.

The 32-year-old has a career Test average of 46.9, but he has yet to manage double-figures across four innings in this series.

Hugely underwhelming efforts of two, eight, three and five have seen him depart three times to Stuart Broad, before Jofra Archer got him on day five at Lord's.

Without the security of Smith at number four, Warner simply must be better.

 

CAMERON BANCROFT

It says much for Smith's sensational form that Australia lead the series, away from home, despite neither of their openers firing.

Warner has been dismal with the bat, but Bancroft - another back in the Test fold following suspension - has fared little better.

Bancroft has a far more modest reputation than Warner, but he has the talent to perform at a far higher level than he has shown in the past two matches.

The 26-year-old was in excellent form for Durham while his team-mates were in Cricket World Cup action, yet that has not translated to the Test scene.

Knocks of 13 and 16 at Lord's were poor and yet considerable improvements on eight and seven at Edgbaston.

 

TIM PAINE

Paine might be the captain in name, but his leadership qualities have been questioned with Smith, the former skipper, back in the mix.

However, with Smith out, Paine must step up in more ways than one. Leading by example with the bat would certainly be a good start.

While Smith has been smashing centuries, Paine has mustered just 66 in total across four knocks.

His poorest total of all so far (four in the second innings at Lord's) came when Australia needed their captain most, digging in to reach the end of the day - even if Joe Denly took a remarkable catch.

There will be more pressure in the third Test, where England will have their tails up, and Paine must step up this time.

 

SOMEONE ELSE...

It was Smith's direct replacement Marnus Labuschagne, the concussion substitute, who stepped up in his absence at Lord's, contributing a vital 100-ball 59.

Labuschagne will surely get the opportunity to impress again in Leeds, but Australia really should have enough batting talent in their ranks without needing to call on a deputy.

Usman Khawaja (career average 41.4) has made 13, 40, 36 and two. Travis Head (49.9) has been slightly better with 35, 51, seven and a brave unbeaten 42. Both could improve.

Matthew Wade's series has been ludicrously inconsistent: one, 110, six and one. More single-figures will be damaging next time out.

There are plenty of men capable of stepping into the void, but that might be easier said than done when Smith is gone and Jofra Archer is hitting his stride.

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