Ben Stokes provided the spark as England stayed in the hunt for victory in a gripping first Test against Pakistan.

Picked just as a batsman for this match due to a niggling thigh injury, Stokes made a frustrating duck in England's first innings, but he stepped out of the slips to take the ball and pick up two prized Pakistan wickets.

Day three at Old Trafford ended with Pakistan on 137-8 in their second innings, 244 runs ahead of England.

However many more runs Pakistan add on Saturday morning, England will face a tough task to chase down their target, but they still have hope.

The home side had hope at the start of this day too, and they also had Ollie Pope, but England's new middle-order star added just 16 to his overnight score to be out for 62.

From a precarious 92-4 at the start of play, England were dismissed for an underwhelming 219, thankful again to Stuart Broad (29 not out) for some lusty lower-order hitting as the tail was soon exposed.

Pope fell to a scorching delivery from Naseem Shah, the ball leaping up off the pitch and catching the splice of the bat, arrowing low to Shadab Khan at gully.

Leg-spinner Yasir Shah removed home captain Joe Root on day two and began to make his presence felt again, bowling Jos Buttler (38) and Chris Woakes (19) either side of having Dom Bess snaffled at slip by a leaping Asad Shafiq.

Fellow leg-spinner Shadab Khan had Jofra Archer caught behind off the glove, before pinning last man James Anderson lbw.

Armed with a 107-run first-innings lead, Pakistan found England's pace attack troubling, with Shan Masood following his first-innings 156 with a duck, nibbling at a ball slanting across him and down the leg side from Broad, clipping through to Buttler.

Bess had Abid Ali caught in the deep by Woakes, who then made a key impact himself by having Babar Azam taken at slip by Stokes and Azhar Ali trapped leg before.

Dom Sibley got rid of Asad Shafiq (29) with a smart run out, but Pakistan were beginning to stabilise when Stokes entered the attack.

He claimed a wicket with his eighth delivery when he got Mohammad Rizwan (27) out lbw, then Broad had Shadab Khan in the same manner.

And shortly after 19:00 local time (18:00 GMT) Stokes struck again, a short ball accounting for Shaheen Afridi, the batsman lobbing one up for Rory Burns to take a safe catch.

Jofra Archer pointed out he is not a robot after the England fast bowler's pace levels were again called into question on day two of the first Test against Pakistan.

The hosts reached stumps on 92-4 at Old Trafford, with Ollie Pope's unbeaten 46 the clearest note of defiance against a superb opening burst from Pakistan's seamers – Mohammad Abbas the pick with 2-24 after bowling Ben Stokes for a duck.

A career-best 156 from Shan Masood did most of the heavy lifting in the tourists' 326 all out, in which Archer and Stuart Broad took three wickets apiece.

However, in between scything a brilliant ball through the defences of Shan's opening partner Abid Ali on the first morning and removing tailenders Yasir Shah and Abbas, much of Archer's work was pedestrian.

He rarely looked like pushing the speed gun beyond 90 miles per hour as he did notably during last year's thrilling Ashes duel with Steve Smith.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the day's play, Archer said he was not purposefully bowling within himself but added a track taking spin on the second day in Manchester was not one on which a fast bowler should "bend your back".

"It's not deliberate. Not every day are you going to come in and bowl 90 miles per hour," he said.

"I seen the guy [Naseem] Shah started bowling 90 today, so we'll see how he goes later on tomorrow.

"No one's robots, so I'll be very interested to see what he can produce a bit later.

"This wicket is not really one you're going to try and bend your back on. We bowled first, there was a little bit there in the morning but it's spinning on day two so that says a lot about the wicket right now."

Captain Joe Root – who fell cutting at leg-spinner Yasir for 14 – has been accused of over-bowling Archer in his still-fledgling Test career, but he went almost two hours without turning to his strike bowler as Pakistan threatened to get away from England during the middle session.

"If you looked at the time, it was approaching the [second] new ball and I think he just wanted all of the bowlers fresh," an unperturbed Archer observed.

"Obviously there was a time last night when I probably got off the hook as well. The umpire said it was a bit too dark.

"He probably did want to bowl me last night as well. He didn't want to bowl me after the break but I guess the captain knows best.

"We've got more than enough bowlers here to do a job. I wouldn't be upset at all."

Archer returned to the England XI for last month's series-clinching win over West Indies after being ruled out of the second Test for violating bio-secure protocols.

In a column for the Daily Mail, Archer detailed his resulting mental anguish and, asked whether he had put that episode behind him, he added: "I hope so… yeah, I definitely did. I'm just glad to be back playing out playing again."

Pakistan's sparkling and lethal bowling attack left England reeling at the end of day two after Shan Masood's excellent century put the tourists in charge of the first Test.

Star batsman Babar Azam was removed by James Anderson without adding to his overnight 69 as England checked Pakistan's day-one momentum with impressive discipline during the morning session.

But the indefatigable Masood remained and found a willing ally in Shadab Khan (45) before the century-maker became the ninth man to fall, making 156 out of 326 all out.

New ball pair Shaheen Afridi and Mohammad Abbas then removed England openers Rory Burns and Dom Sibley cheaply, both lbw, before Abbas cleaned up Ben Stokes for a duck with a sensational delivery.

Captain Joe Root's 58-ball stay yielded 14 runs before he was out caught behind, cutting leg-spinner Yasir Shah, meaning the bulk of England's hopes rested with Ollie Pope (46 not out) as they closed on 92-4 – 234 in arrears.

After an underwhelming Wednesday outing on his home ground, Anderson (1-63) was bang on the money in the first over of the day and tempted Babar into a drive he edged to Root at first slip.

Broad (3-54) accounted for Asad Shafiq in similar fashion, with Stokes the catcher, and the similarly assured Chris Woakes (2-43) had Mohammad Rizwan caught behind by Jos Buttler, who endured an otherwise torrid innings with the gloves.

England had a sniff of Pakistan's vulnerable lower order but Shadab put on 105 for the sixth wicket with Shan, who reached a fourth Test century, and third in as many outings, off 251 deliveries.

Shadab slapped Dom Bess to Root at midwicket with 50 in sight, which was Shan's cue to put his foot down as Jofra Archer (3-59) and Broad split the tail between them – the latter having implored in inimitable fashion for the centurion's scalp.

Shaheen's pace and Abbas' wily precision got Pakistan quickly stuck into the England middle order, with Stokes losing his stumps when driving at a majestic delivery that decked away from him.

Pope found a fluency that eluded his captain, meeting the challenge of considerable speed and skill with a nicely judged counter-attack he must now build substantially upon.

A hard-hitting batsman and wicketkeeper, Jos Butler, is seen as a player who has everything to succeed in the shorter formats of the game.

Butler has been able to score all around the ground. This has earned him the tag of being a "360-degree" cricketer, as in he can hit the ball in any direction within the available 360-degree of the ground.

Butler got his first international call-up when he was named in the senior England squad for the Twenty20 International against the touring Indian team in September 2011. Butler made his debut as a batsman and not as a wicketkeeper.

Following the match against India, Butler retained his place in the team and went on to play against the touring West Indies side later the same season. Butler has been known mostly as a T20 specialist for England but has broken into the One-Day International and Test teams recently, with the selectors having faith he shows the necessary tools to adapt to any given format.

 

Career Statistics (2009-present)

Full name: Joseph Charles Buttler

Born: September 8, 1990 (29), Taunton, Somerset

Major teams: England, Comilla Victorians, England Development Programme Under-19s, England Lions, England Performance Programme, England Performance Programme XI, England Under-19s, Khulna Royal Bengals, Lancashire, Melbourne Renegades, Mumbai Cricket Association XI, Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals, Somerset, Somerset 2nd XI, Sydney Thunder

Playing role: Wicketkeeper batsman

Batting style: Right-hand bat

Fielding position: Wicketkeeper

 

T20I Career - England

Mat    Inns    NO    Runs    HS     Ave      BF     SR        100    50    4s     6s     Ct     St

69       61       11     1334     73*   26.68    955   139.68     0       8     114    55     25     4

T20 Career

Mat    Inns    NO    Runs    HS     Ave      BF      SR       100     50    4s     6s     Ct     St

252     231      41    5782     95*    30.43   3995   144.73    0       40    501    241   137   27

 

Career Highlights

  • Has scored 1334 T20I runs at an average of 26.68
  • Strike-rate of 139.68
  • T20I high score is 73* off 49 balls
  • 5782 T20 runs at 30.43

One of the most explosive all-rounders of the modern era, Ben Stokes's energy is infectious on the cricket field. He is extremely passionate about everything that he does.

In the World T20 held in India, he was at the receiving end of Carlos Brathwaite's broad willow as he was smacked for four sixes in the last over of the final at Eden Gardens. Stokes was shattered as West Indies clinched the title.

Despite the World T20 setback, Stokes' career has progressed in remarkable fashion.  A genuine seam-bowling all-rounder who has the ability to hit big shots is a priceless commodity in the T20 format. Therefore, it wasn’t a surprise when Ben Stokes fetched earth-shattering numbers at the 2017 Indian Premier League (IPL) auction. He was picked up by the Rising Pune Supergiants and in his maiden IPL season, the charismatic Englishman showed he was worth all the money.

 

Career Statistics

Full name: Benjamin Andrew Stokes

Born: June 4, 1991 (29), Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

Major teams: England, Canterbury, Durham, Durham 2nd XI, England Development Programme Under-19s, England Lions, England Performance Programme, England Performance Programme XI, England Under-19s, Melbourne Renegades, Rajasthan Royals, Rising Pune Supergiant

Playing role: Allrounder

Batting style: Left-hand bat

Bowling style: Right-arm fast-medium

T20I Career - England (Batting)

Mat   Inns   NO    Runs    HS    Ave     BF     SR        100   50    4s     6s   

26        23     6      305      47*   17.94  227    134.36     0      0     25     13   

T20 Career

Mat   Inns   NO    Runs    HS      Ave      BF       SR       100    50    4s     6s    

123    113    19     2330     103*   24.78    1720   135.46     1      8     180   102    

 

T20I Career – England (Bowling)

Mat   Inns   Balls    Runs   Wkts    BBI     BBM     Ave     Econ   SR       4w    5w    10w

26       21     388      571       14     3/26     3/26     40.78   8.82    27.7      0         0      0

T20 Career (Bowling)

Mat   Inns   Balls    Runs    Wkts    BBI     BBM     Ave     Econ   SR     4w    5w    10w

123     87     1537    2156      68      4/16     4/16     31.70    8.41   22.6    1       0         0

 

Career Highlights

  • Has scored 305 T20I runs at an average of 17.94
  • Has taken 14 T20I wickets at 40.78
  • 2017 IPL Player of the tournament (316r & 12 wkts)
  • 68 T20 wkts at 31.70
  • 2330 T20 runs at 24.78

Six Nations has confirmed the tournament will be completed in October and guidance on potential spectator attendance will follow "in due course".

The World Rugby Council last week approved for Ireland to face Italy on October 24, with the final round of matches taking place a week later.

Ireland will stage bottom side Italy at the Aviva Stadium in a showdown that should have taken place on March 7, but was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Wales will take on Scotland on October 31 at a venue that has not yet been confirmed, with England travelling to face Italy at Stadio Olimpico and France doing battle with Ireland at Stade de France on the same day. 

England were above France on points difference when the vast majority of sport worldwide was halted in March and it remains to be seen whether fans will be allowed in to see the conclusion of the competition.

A Six Nations statement released on Wednesday said: "In rescheduling these matches, the health and safety of players, associated staff and supporters has been at the forefront of our thinking.

"We remain in close contact with all relevant authorities across the respective jurisdictions to ensure these matches take place in a safe environment and we will announce further details of health and safety protocols and guidance on spectator attendance in due course."

Six Nations chief executive Ben Morel said: "Public health remains the number one priority and while we must continue to be vigilant and cognisant of the dynamic and fast changing external environment, we are nonetheless extremely pleased to be moving in the right direction."

When Pakistan were previously in England for a Test series, Babar Azam saw a promising start cut short by a bad break.  

The batsman made a half-century in the opening game at Lord’s in May 2018, but his involvement in the series was painfully cut short when struck on the left arm by a Ben Stokes short ball.  

Forced to retire hurt with 68 to his name, Babar did not appear again during the tour. A fracture ended his contribution as the tourists triumphed at the home of cricket, while he had to watch on as his side were crushed in the second Test at Headingley. 

At that stage of his career, Babar was viewed as a limited-overs specialist still making his way in the Test arena. With an average under 25 prior to playing England, he was – at the age of 23 – a player with obvious potential working out how to play the game of patience.

Just over two years on, he returns to England having enhanced his reputation to such an extent that the so-called 'Fab Four' - Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson - have company. It is unclear who identifies as the cricketing versions of Paul, John, Ringo and George, but Babar is not like the fifth Beatle – his identity is clear.

Start a discussion with cricket fans over who should be considered the lead act in the group and you are opening a cricketing can of worms. It is a topic that, understandably, stirs up national pride, but also heated discussions about the weight of importance given to each format. 

What is not up for debate, however, is that Babar deserves to be in the conversation. His white-ball numbers are outstanding – he averages over 50 in Twenty20 and one-dayers for Pakistan – yet his Test statistics in recent times provide additional evidence for those keen to argue his case.  

Indeed, his average of 75.9 across his 12 Test knocks since the start of 2019 is the best rate of any batsman to have 10 or more innings during that period. Better than Kohli, despite the India captain piling on the runs at home against South Africa, including a career-best 254 not out. Better even than Smith, whose Ashes heroics last year were so crucial in helping Australia retain the urn on English soil.  

He also sits above the same pairing when it comes to contributing for his team, providing an astonishing 22 per cent of Pakistan’s total Test runs over the period. There is clearly substance to the style now, a determined streak to go with the eye-catching technique.  

Ricky Ponting, the former Australia captain, tipped Babar to become one of the best in the world at the start of the year; he was a little late to get on board a bandwagon that now offers standing room only. 

"I think he is right up there already," Azhar Ali, Pakistan's Test skipper, said on the eve of the series opener with England at Old Trafford. 

"His performances have improved massively in Test matches over the last year or so. Firstly, he was performing really well in white-ball cricket and people thought he was only a white-ball player, but he took on that challenge and played with a lot of freedom and flair.” 

Babar's career totals do not stand up to the sheer volume scored by Kohli, Root, Smith and Williamson - at least not yet. Still, since 2018, he sits above the quartet in terms of Test average (65.5) and strike-rate (63.2 runs per 100 deliveries).

That stretch includes a memorable maiden hundred on home soil. While rain ruined the spectacle of the first Test played in Pakistan for over a decade, Babar brightened up the final day against Sri Lanka in Rawalpindi with an unbeaten 102 that delighted the crowd who had patiently waited to see their team return.  

Scores of 60 not out, 100 and 143 followed in the remainder of a truncated series, all from a player who did not reach three figures until his 17th Test. 

Prior to that breakthrough innings against New Zealand in November 2018, Babar had managed an unspectacular 822 runs at 30.4. Since then, though, there have been four more three-figure scores in 10 games, plus a 97 in a losing cause against Australia in Adelaide when no colleagues were willing to stick around in support. 

Pakistan are likely to lean on him heavily again in England, particularly as they come up against a team brimming with fast-bowling options and fresh off a 2-1 series victory over West Indies. 

Babar's development - including a highly productive Cricket World Cup campaign last year on English soil, as well as finishing top run-scorer in the T20 Blast while playing for Somerset - suggests he will relish the challenge.

The head-to-head battle with Root will be one of the main storylines, too. England's captain has much on his plate in the coming weeks, including fathoming out a way to nullify the brilliant Babar, who has stylishly climbed his way into the top tier of international batsmen.

Ireland matched their famous 2011 Cricket World Cup victory over England as they scored 329 again to take the final match of the one-day series in Southampton. 

Kevin O'Brien - the hero of the historic three-wicket triumph in Bangalore nine years ago - hit the winning run, seeing Ireland home in the final over to end the long wait for a second win over their neighbours.

However, it was opener Paul Stirling and captain Andy Balbirnie who were the architects of this outstanding result, both right-handers making centuries to set up the innings.

England captain Eoin Morgan had earlier hit 106 but suffered a groin injury while batting, forcing him to watch on from a seat inside the empty Ageas Bowl as his side's score of 328 all out was overhauled with seven wickets in hand.

Stirling smashed 142 from 128 deliveries while Balbirnie hit 113, the pair adding 214 runs for the second wicket before a mix-up saw the former, previously dropped twice by James Vince, run out.

The skipper also perished as the finishing line drew closer, lofting Adil Rashid to Sam Billings in the deep, but Harry Tector and O'Brien saw the job through, finishing unbeaten on 29 and 21 respectively.

As well as avoiding being swept in the three-match series, Ireland also claim their first points in the new ICC Cricket World Cup Super League by beating the reigning champions in the format.

England looked set to post an even more challenging target having been put into bat, yet twice undermined their progress by losing wickets in clusters during a sloppy performance.

Jason Roy fell in the first over of the contest, steering Craig Young to second slip, while opening partner Jonny Bairstow departed for four soon after, bowled by Mark Adair. 

Vince (16) also departed inside the opening powerplay to leave the score at 44-3, yet Morgan still opted to go on the attack against the team he used to play for. 

Tom Banton (58) recorded his maiden ODI half-century but played second fiddle to his skipper in a fourth-wicket alliance worth 146, though Morgan's departure led to another mini-collapse. 

From 190-4, England slipped to 216-7. As well as both well-set batsmen, Moeen Ali (one) and the in-form Sam Billings, who picked out mid-on having eased to 19, were also dismissed during a passage of play that proved crucial in the end.

David Willey followed up his unbeaten 47 on Saturday with a career-best ODI score of 51, while Tom Curran finished up 38 not out, but the hosts offered Ireland an opportunity they gratefully seized.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) have reportedly sought to secure the services of Leeds United central midfielder Kalvin Phillips.

The 24-year-old is fresh off playing a crucial role in the team’s successful bid to secure promotion to the English Premier League (EPL).  The Caribbean team are hoping to he can play a similar role in their bid to secure a return to the FIFA World Cup.  A feat they first accomplished in 1998.

Phillips is of Jamaican heritage and could quality to represent the county by virtue of the fact that his father is Jamaican.  The player has, however, also attracted the interest of his birth nation England, with his progress already being monitored by the team’s manager Gareth Southgate.

The Jamaican’s are currently in an eight-team final round World Cup qualification group, which will see three teams qualify directly to the tournament and another secure a play-off spot.  The JFF has already reportedly contacted Leeds asking for permission to sit down with Phillips and try to convince him to pick the Caribbean unit.  Phillips, who was born in Leeds, has never been selected to represent that Three Lions at any level and could have a tough time securing a spot in a talented England team.

At first glance, Joe Root does not look like the type of batsman that makes for a successful T20 player. Obdurate in the Test arena and the solid anchor sheet in One-Day Internationals, Root doesn’t seem to have the swashbuckling, sometimes even kamikaze-like penchant for attacking bowling that the best proponents of the shortest form of the game seem to possess. But, for some reason, maybe his incredible work ethic has helped him, he has adapted.

Root depends on deft touches and manipulations of the field to accumulate his runs, but his ability to do so is so exquisite that he could hurt a team without ever hitting a six. In fact, Root has only ever hit 16 sixes for England in 32 T20I outings. He has, however, scored five half-centuries in that period and averages above 35. The story is similar in the T20 arena where he has scored nine half-centuries in 20 games at an average of 30 and a half. His strike rate of 126 in international cricket and 125 in T20s isn’t staggering, but it does show remarkable adaptability for a man who strikes at 50 in the Test arena and just 60 in ODIs.

Career Statistics (2011-present)

Full name: Joseph Edward Root

Born: December 30, 1990, Sheffield, Yorkshire (29)

Major teams: England, England Lions, England Under-19s, Sydney Thunder, Yorkshire, Yorkshire 2nd XI, Yorkshire Academy, Yorkshire Under-17s

Playing role: Top-order batsman

Batting style: Right-hand bat

Bowling style: Right-arm offbreak, Legbreak

 

T20I Career

Mat   Inns   NO    Runs    HS     Ave      BF      SR       100   50     4s      6s    

32       30       5      893      90*   35.72    707   126.30     0      5      92      16   

T20 Career

Mat   Inns   NO    Runs     HS     Ave      BF         SR         100   50    4s     6s     

72         66    13    1619      92*   30.54    1288      125.69      0      9    180    24    

 

Career Highlights

  • 32 T20I caps scoring 893 runs at 35.72
  • 1619 T20 runs at average of 30.54

Blessed with an ability to hit boundaries at the end of innings got observers to label Eoin Morgan a "finisher".

In 2010, he took those talents to the 2010 ICC Twenty20 World Cup where his exploits helped take England to the final they won.

Morgan was named England captain for the 2015 Cricket World Cup, having already captained England in ODIs and T20Is. He is the only England captain to have scored more than four ODI centuries. Under his captaincy, England won the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup for the first time.

As of December 2019, Morgan is the all-time leading run-scorer and most capped player for England in ODI matches. He also holds the England record for the fastest fifty in ODIs and during the 2019 ICC World Cup, he hit the highest number of sixes in an ODI innings with 17 against Afghanistan.

He hit a six off the final ball of the innings to win a KFC Twenty20 Big Bash for the Sydney Thunder against the Melbourne Stars.

Morgan has also taken his big-hitting talents to a number of T20 leagues across the globe having played for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, the Kolkata Knight Riders, the Sunrisers Hyderabad and the Kings XI Punjab.

He also played for Peshawar Zalmi in the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

In January 2020, Eoin Morgan was named captain for Middlesex’s T20 team for the 2020 Vitality Blast campaign.

 

Career statistics (2006 – present)

Full name: Eoin Joseph Gerard Morgan

Born: September 10, 1986, Dublin (33)

Major teams: England, Ireland, Bangalore Royal Challengers, Bangla Tigers, Barbados Tridents, England A, England Performance Programme, England Performance Programme XI, Ireland A, Ireland Under-19s, Karachi Kings, Kerala Kings, Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders, Middlesex, Middlesex 2nd XI, Peshawar Zalmi, Sir Paul Getty's XI, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Sydney Thunder, Team Morgan, Tshwane Spartans

Playing role: Middle-order batsman

Batting style: Left-hand bat 

 

T20I Career

Mat     Inns     NO       Runs    HS       Ave      BF       SR         100       50

89         87       18        2138     91       30.98   1555    137.49      0         13      

T20 Career

Mat     Inns     NO     Runs    HS     Ave      BF        SR         100       50

285      271      38      6321     91      27.12   4788    132.01      0          35      

 

Career highlights

  • Most capped T20I English player (89)
  • Leading T20I runs scorer for England
  • 7th all-time on T20I run-scoring list, 2138, avg. 30.98
  • 6321 T20 runs at 27.12

England seamer Reece Topley has been ruled out of Tuesday's final ODI with Ireland because of a left groin strain.

Topley, who had seen a promising international career derailed by a series of stress fractures in his back, took his first ODI wicket for over four years in England's win on Saturday.

That four-wicket success clinched the three-match series for the hosts, but Topley will not be available as England look to complete a 3-0 triumph at the Rose Bowl.

Topley, whose last ODI appearance prior to last weekend's victory came in South Africa in February 2016, enjoyed an impressive return and finished with figures of 1-31.

He will hope to recover in time to produce similar performances in this month's T20 series with Pakistan, which begins on August 28.

 On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT

  

Mental exhaustion or not enough effort on the field?

  England beat the West Indies by 269 runs and took the series 2-1 to reclaim the Wisden Trophy forever. Windies captain Jason Holder, speaking at the end of the third Test, said, “It’s been challenging, it’s been really challenging, mentally some of the guys are a bit worn out.”

Though I agree it is difficult to play any sport during a pandemic and acknowledge the upheaval, surrounding social injustice issues, taking place, to simply attribute the Windies poor result to these issues is unacceptable. I agree the current climate is different than what anyone has ever experienced before but the Windies loss was brought about by a lack of team effort on the field.

Holder went on to say, “It could be this way for a little while, so we’ve got to find ways to make it work. Hopefully, things could ease up throughout the world and probably guys can get out of the hotel a little bit more, but it has been challenging for sure.”

 Each match was played behind closed doors with players unable to feed off the crowd’s energy.  While I agree that the conditions in which they played were not ideal, as professional athletes they knew the job at hand was to retain the Wisden trophy and play smart cricket. 

The Windies made a great start to their tour with a win, at the Rose Bowl, but England found form in Manchester. The shortcomings of the Windies batsmen in English conditions were exposed numerous times. They conceded first-innings leads of 182 in the second test and 172 in the series decider. The most discouraging factor was the batsmen's inability to capitalize on the numerous starts that they got as a few of the batsmen did make half-centuries. The key difference between both squads was when England got opportunities, they went big, for example, Ben Stokes and Dom Sibley.

England’s bowlers were fresh and eager throughout and that ensured their dominance of the series. A key factor in England’s success was the class of bowlers that were available to choose from as well as the effective rotation of those bowlers. It was useful that none of England’s bowlers bowled in more than two matches – not even Ben Stokes and Dom Bess, who played every game but were not required to bowl.  In the case of the Windies, our bowlers were overworked and two of our key bowlers most notably, Shannon Gabriel and Jason Holder, were struggling with niggles.

Though the mental strain of being away from their families and playing the game during the pandemic may have affected the Windies players’ performance, I don’t believe is it the main reason they lost the series.

 

Arsenal has aced the recipe for FA Cup success

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta is hoping the FA Cup victory on Saturday will convince captain Pierre Emerick Aubameyang to stay at the club after they beat Chelsea 2-1. The Gunners captain scored twice to seal the win, taking his team to a 14th FA Cup success. Aubameyang has less than a year left on his contract and his future at the club has been a topic of discussion.

On Saturday, when Aubameyang dropped the trophy before raising it above his head, Arteta joked, “He needs more experience with trophies, we can get him more used to that.” Chelsea’s manager Frank Lampard also commended Aubameyang on his match-winning performance. The North Londoners have now landed a spot in UEFA’s second-tier competition next season. 

This triumph has rectified some of the problems Arsenal had this season, especially after finishing 8th in the Premier League.

 

 The TKR captaincy fits Polly

Kieron Pollard will continue to lead the Trinbago Knight Riders for CPL 2020. Last year, Pollard replaced Dwayne Bravo as captain after he was ruled out with a finger injury.  The decision was a beneficial one and a team with a fit Bravo and Pollard can yield success.

Bravo, who led the team to three CPL titles previously, expressed to the owner that he would rather focus on his game, while Pollard leads the team. I think it is a perfect fit for the team as Pollard and Bravo are great friends and a healthy Bravo with Pollard at the helm puts TKR in a position to win another CPL title.

Pollard has scored 1759 runs in 70 matches, at a strike rate of 148.56. He is the 6th highest run-scorer in the history of the tournament. With the ball, Bravo is the leading wicket-taker with 97 scalps in 69 games. Together both players can use their individual achievements and personalities to get the best of the unit as they seek a 4th CPL title.

Former West Indies and Barbados batsman Philo Wallace has pointed to team captain Jason Holder’s lack of aggressive killer instinct as one of the issues that ailed the regional team in its recent loss to England.

The 28-year-old all-rounder has faced expected scrutiny in recent days, following a mid-series collapse against the Englishmen, which clouded over a promising start to the series. 

Holder had marshaled his troops to an impressive four-wicket win to begin the tour but the introduction of pace bowler Stuart Broad midway the second Test coincided with the team coming apart at the seams, with displays of less effective bowling and dismal batting.  Wallace believes a more aggressive stance from the typically laid-back captain would have been more beneficial.

“Jason handled the side well in the first Test match.  We won that match convincingly.  If you look at the second and third match and how he handled it, again, we see deficiencies in his aggression.  I don’t think he’s aggressive enough,” Wallace told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“I don’t think he’s aggressive enough.  When Ben Stokes decided to come around the wicket we saw things change.  We didn’t see a lot of aggression from our captain and that’s why bowlers did not show the aggression,” he added.

Wallace was also highly critical of Holder’s continuing support for a struggling Shai Hope during the series.

“Obviously, when Jason decided to continually defend Hope, it's a massive statement to defend a man who hasn’t scored runs in Test match cricket for a long time.  Yet, you have the extra batsman available to you and you did not play him,” Wallace said.

“You went down the road with Shai Hope and Shai Hope did not deliver for you, so that is a massive responsibility for a captain to take on board,” he added.

“Sometimes we need to be honest with ourselves about West Indies cricket.  If West Indies cricket is to move forward, sometimes you have to make some harsh decisions.  You have to drop your friend to bring in the man who will fight and perform for you.  You cannot pick a friend and keep getting beat.”  

 

Joe Denly will miss the rest of England's ODI series with Ireland due to back problems.

The batsman has been struggling with back spasms and was not involved in the first match on Thursday, when England claimed a six-wicket victory.

The England and Wales Cricket Board announced on Friday that Liam Livingstone would take Denly's place in the 14-man squad.

"Joe Denly has been ruled out the Royal London Series against Ireland after suffering back spasms in training on Wednesday," the ECB statement said.

"The Kent batsman has been replaced in the 14-man England ODI squad by Lancashire's Liam Livingstone.

"Livingstone has represented England in two IT20s and would make his ODI debut if selected in one of the final two matches with Ireland."

The second ODI takes place at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, with the third set for next Tuesday.

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