England striker Harry Kane attributed his accuracy from the penalty spot to relentless practice.

The 26-year-old plundered a hat-trick on Saturday – two of which came from the spot – as England registered a comfortable 4-0 win over Bulgaria to make it three wins out of three in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Kane's spot-kick finishes left Bulgaria goalkeeper Plamen Iliev with no chance and the Tottenham striker says his precision from 12 yards is down to constant practice.

When asked why he is so accurate from the spot, Kane told ITV: "Hard work, practice.

"We do a lot during the week and then the day before the game me and a few of the other boys will do quite a bit."

On how many penalties he practices each day, Kane added: "If I feel like I'm in a good place it could be 10 or 15; it depends how I feel on the day.

"In a team like this with such explosive players, we're always likely to get penalties, so whoever's on the pitch should be ready to take them."

Gareth Southgate was fulsome in his praise of Kane's penalty-taking ability, saying goalkeepers stand little chance given the excellence of his technique.

"He has an incredible process," the England boss said. "We watch him do it every day. He took a lot yesterday and we were very confident when we were sat on the bench.

"It's a brilliant example for any youngster for mastering a technique because you can see the way he composes himself that it's very difficult for goalkeepers to know where he's going to put them."

Australia closed in on a victory in the fourth Ashes Test that would ensure they retain the urn as Steve Smith again punished England, who were quickly reduced to 18-2 having been set 383 on day four.

Mitchell Starc, Smith and Pat Cummins each enjoyed their time in the spotlight on Saturday, with Australia reclaiming command of proceedings each time their hosts appeared to have been granted a glimmer of hope at Old Trafford.

Starc took 3-80 and excelled with the new ball as England, who resumed on 200-5, were dismissed for 301 in their first innings to concede a lead of 196.

The talismanic Smith - a double-centurion in Australia's first dig - then shone once more with the bat to stretch his side's advantage.

England reduced their opponents to 44-4 before Smith hit 82 off 92 balls - another wonderful innings yet incredibly his lowest score of the series to date - and Tim Paine declared on 186-6 in a bid to make swift progress against the fragile home top order.

Paine got what he wanted almost immediately as Cummins started with a double-wicket-maiden, dismissing Rory Burns and Joe Root. England duly stumbled through to stumps, three long sessions away from a draw that would keep the series alive - or, more unlikely still, requiring 365 to follow up their Headingley triumph with another stunning comeback victory.

In the morning session, England never truly recovered from the break up of the Burns-Root partnership on day three, with Starc getting movement out of the new ball to bowl Jonny Bairstow (17) before swiftly adding the big wicket of Ben Stokes (26).

Jos Buttler (41) was almost solely responsible for at least lifting England past the follow-on target of 298 before he fell to Cummins.

Australia then wobbled when batting again, with Stuart Broad continuing his domination of David Warner, trapping the opener for a third consecutive duck.

Broad kept the pressure on and got Marcus Harris (6) too, before Jofra Archer accounted for Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head in a pacy spell.

However, Smith initially dug in and then came out firing after tea, surviving brief scares as he came close to dragging on and then almost fell to a stunning attempted catch from Stokes.

While other batsmen struggled for fluency, Smith was able to score freely with some increasingly expansive strokeplay. His attempts to lift the run-rate eventually gifted a wicket to Leach as Stokes was picked out at long-off.

Matthew Wade departed to a rejuvenated Archer, before Paine smashed a quick unbeaten 23 off 18 and then declared mid-over, teeing up Cummins to dish out some early damage.

Burns fell victim to the third ball when a leading edge looped to a sprawling Head at cover, while Root's defences were breached immediately by a gorgeous delivery that took off stump.

Jason Roy saw off the hat-trick ball and survived the remaining 6.2 overs alongside Joe Denly, but England's hopes of regaining the urn appear slim with a day to play.

 

STARC CONTRAST TO DAY THREE

Starc, recalled for this Test, is not always the most consistent of bowlers and struggled a little on Friday, ending the third day on figures of 0-41.

He proved his worth on day four with two huge early wickets in a new-ball spell. After bowling Bairstow through the gate with an inswinger, he tempted an edge from Stokes, who had scored 161 runs since his previous dismissal in the first innings at Headingley.

ARCHER BACK AT IT BUT SMITH SUPREME

Archer endured the first really tough innings of his international career earlier in this match, his figures of 0-97 including a gruelling spell bowling to Smith. The wicket of Labuschagne here came as a huge relief.

But that battle with Smith still provided Archer with little reward. Until his dismissal at the hands of Leach, the Australia star, a little like Stokes in Leeds, appeared to be in one-day mode as he blasted the ball around Old Trafford.

MOMENT OF THE DAY

England were already in big trouble after losing Burns in the first over of their second innings. Their hopes of salvaging a draw receded sharply when the next ball from Cummins beat Root all ends up to leave the hosts 0-2.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Broad has got Warner six times in this series.
- Warner has had three ducks in a row. Prior to this run, he had never failed to score in successive Test innings.
- Broad has nine wickets from openers this series. Cummins has the next most on six.
- Smith has five successive Test half-centuries - his best such run.
- The Australia star has scored 293 runs in this Test match; his highest tally in a match.
- Having completed their highest successful run chase (359) at Headingley, England need to achieve the feat again to win this contest.
- Burns' duck was his first in Test cricket.

England continued their 100 per cent start in Euro 2020 qualifying as Harry Kane's hat-trick helped them to a resounding 4-0 win over Bulgaria at Wembley on Saturday.

Gareth Southgate's side were far from their fluid best in the opening stages, but a third straight win in Group A never looked in doubt after Kane's opener in the 24th minute.

The Three Lions captain added a second from the penalty spot three minutes into the second half, before teeing up Raheem Sterling for a third.

Kane added another from the spot in the 73rd minute as England warmed up for Tuesday's visit of the group's surprise package, Kosovo, in style.

After a subdued start, Kane thought he had given the hosts a 19th-minute lead. The Tottenham striker had strayed into an offside position, however, before tucking away Raheem Sterling's pass from close range.

He was not to be denied five minutes later, though, taking full advantage of slapstick goalkeeping from Plamen Iliev to score his 23rd international goal.

After a short goal-kick, Iliev's attempted pass to Vasil Bozhikov was cut out by Sterling, who teed up Kane to stroke home from six yards.

Kane went close again shortly before the interval, heading straight at Iliev from Kieran Trippier's teasing right-wing cross.

Jordan Pickford kept out Wanderson's close-range effort a few moments after the restart, before a surging run from Marcus Rashford led to England's second.

The Manchester United forward was brought down in the area by Nikolay Bodurov, with Kane coolly stroking home the resulting spot-kick.

Kane turned provider for England's third in the 55th minute, crossing for Sterling to bundle home his ninth international goal from point-blank range.

The 26-year-old added gloss to a superb individual display 17 minutes from time, whipping in from the penalty spot after he had been clumsily brought down in the area by Kristian Dimitrov.

 

 

What does it mean? Southgate's side in rude health

They might have fallen one short of the five goals they plundered in each of their opening two group games, but England once again enjoyed themselves against limited opposition. They are top of Group A after three games and you would not back against them qualifying for next year's tournament without dropping points.

Kane proves he is more than able

The talismanic striker made light of suggestions he has started the season short of full fitness, delivering a masterclass in how to lead the line. Not only did he find the back of the net three times, but he also superbly picked out Sterling for England's third.

Iliev's lapse proves costly

Bulgaria will be left to rue Iliev's moment of madness. They were holding England at bay with something approaching relative ease, but their goalkeeper's misplaced pass was ruthlessly punished to set Southgate's side on their way to a comfortable win.

What's next?

England will hope to continue their fine start to qualifying when Kosovo – who have picked up eight points from their four games – visit Wembley on Tuesday, while Bulgaria's attentions turn to a friendly against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on the same day.

It was a familiar story at Old Trafford on day four as Australia's incredible talisman Steve Smith tormented England by once again piling on the runs.

Smith crafted a magnificent 211 in Manchester on Thursday and took the wind out of England's sails with 82 on day four after the tourists had been reduced to 44-4 in a pulsating afternoon session.

Australia's lead was up to 345 when the former captain, who missed the third Test at Headingley due to concussion, was dismissed by Jack Leach 18 short of reaching three figures for the fourth time in the series.

Smith 293 runs in the match are the most he has ever amassed in a Test and, with one game to come, he is only 17 short of bettering the 687 he registered in the last Ashes series, despite not playing in Leeds.

With the help of Opta, we look at some of the incredible numbers the top-ranked batsman in Test cricket has racked up in the Ashes.

- Smith's has scored 239, 76, 102 not out, 83, 144, 142, 92, 211 and 82 in his last nine Ashes knocks.

- By passing 50 in each of his last five Test innings, he has registered his best run of half-centuries in the longest format.

- He has passed 600 runs in a Test series for only the third time - previously managing it in 2014-15 against India and in the 2017-18 Ashes.

- Smith has 671 runs in the series and looks set to better his personal record of 687 from the last Ashes. Only three players have ever passed 800 runs in an Ashes series: Don Bradman (974 in 1930 and 810 in 1936-37), Wally Hammond (905 in 1928-29) and Mark Taylor (839 in 1989).

Jesse Lingard has been ruled out of England's Euro 2020 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Kosovo through illness.

The midfielder was not named in the squad for Saturday's visit of Bulgaria, with the Three Lions confirming soon after that he will return to Manchester United.

Lingard has endured a difficult start to the season with his club side, failing to make an impact in the Red Devils' opening three games before being dropped to the substitutes' bench for the draw with Southampton last weekend.

No timescale has been put on his return, but he will hope to be fit for United's Premier League clash against Leicester City next Saturday.

Two wickets apiece from Stuart Broad and Jofra Archer gave England a glimmer of hope but Steve Smith was unbeaten at tea with Australia building a substantial lead on day four of the fourth Ashes Test.

Australia bowled England out for 301 after lunch to take a first-innings lead of 196, Mitchell Starc (3-80) and Pat Cummins (3-60) doing the damage on Saturday.

The magnificent Broad and Archer gave England a chance with brilliant new-ball spells, reducing the tourists to 44-4.

Broad removed David Warner for a third consecutive duck - the sixth time he has dismissed the opener in the series - with the sun out at a raucous Old Trafford. 

First-innings double-centurion Smith was still there at the end of a captivating afternoon session, though, with Australia 63-4, leading by 259 runs and firmly on course for a win that would enable them to keep the urn.

In the morning, Starc cleaned up Jonny Bairstow with the second new ball before claiming the big scalp of Ben Stokes, who edged to Smith at second slip.

Archer and Broad departed either side of lunch and England would have been all out if Australia had any reviews left when Starc trapped Jack Leach in front, only for Marais Erasmus to keep his finger down.

Jos Buttler saved the follow-on by driving Starc for his seventh boundary but Cummins bowled him for 41 - his highest score of the series - to end the innings. 

A fired-up Broad then came steaming in to get the crowd rocking, dismissing Warner yet again lbw and getting Harris in the same fashion - the latter wasting a review.

Archer cranked up the pace to get in on the act, first removing the in-form Marnus Labuschagne - courtesy of another lbw verdict - and then castling Travis Head's middle stump.

Smith was troubled by Broad, but he hung in there once again and was unbeaten along with Matthew Wade at the end of the afternoon session, with Stokes not bowling after hurting his shoulder on day two.

It was only a matter of time before Australia paceman Mitchell Starc left his mark on the Ashes series.

Starc played no part in the tourists' win at Edgbaston, a draw at Lord's or England's astonishing triumph at Headingley.

The left-arm quick was unleashed for the pivotal fourth Test at Old Trafford, but was expensive with his radar off on day three as Australia looked to strengthen their grip on the match.

Starc's time came when he was tossed the second new ball under grey skies in Manchester on the penultimate day.

England were in desperate need of something special when they resumed on 200-5 in reply to 497-8 declared, knowing a defeat would put them 2-1 down and unable to regain the urn.

Much rested on the shoulders on Ben Stokes, match-winner at Headingley with an astonishing unbeaten century, and Jonny Bairstow when they marched out at the start of the day.

Starc ensured neither man remained at the crease for long, roaring in from the Brian Statham End like a man on a mission with a point to prove.

Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins were outstanding on the third day as Starc sprayed it around.

It was a different story when the 29-year-old steamed in from the same end with a new missile in hand, generating late swing to clean Bairstow up with a sharp delivery.

He then claimed the huge scalp of Stokes, who nicked one that nipped away off the seam into the safe hands of Steve Smith.

Starc sent Stuart Broad's off stump cartwheeling from the other end after lunch before Cummins bowled Jos Buttler to dismiss England for 301.

The lethal Starc finished with figures of 3-80 as he demonstrated Australia's embarrassment of riches in the bowling department.

A first-innings lead of 196 has Tim Paine's side scenting victory and Starc is surely not finished yet as they strive to keep the urn.

Mitchell Starc's brilliant new-ball burst in the morning session strengthened Australia's grip on the fourth Ashes Test at Old Trafford.

England resumed under grey skies in trouble on 200-5 in reply to the tourists' 497-8 declared, after Josh Hazlewood did late damage on the third day.

Joe Root's side were 278-8 at lunch on Saturday, with Jonny Bairstow (17) and Headingley hero Ben Stokes (26) dismissed by the excellent Starc (2-66) before Pat Cummins saw the back of Jofra Archer.

Jos Buttler was unbeaten on 26, but England trailed by a mammoth 219 and needed another 20 runs to avoid the follow-on as Australia scented a victory that would give them a 2-1 lead - and ensure they retain the urn.

Starc struggled on day three of his first match of the series, but showed his class with the second new ball by generating late swing to bowl Bairstow, who was punished for attempting an extravagant drive. 

Stokes rode his luck, almost chopping on before the dangerous Starc spilled him off his own bowling when he was on 19.

The all-rounder did not last much longer, though, and was furious with himself after edging Starc into the safe hands of Steve Smith, who took his third catch of the innings at second slip.

Archer was fortunate not to be run out casually going through for a single and it was no surprise when he was caught behind off Cummins with an ugly waft, reducing England to 256-8.

Buttler struck five boundaries as he took a positive approach and Stuart Broad was still there at the break after receiving treatment on his elbow, but Australia remained in complete control. 

Mako Vunipola will miss at least the first two of England's games at the Rugby World Cup, coach Eddie Jones has confirmed.

Prop Vunipola suffered a setback in his hamstring injury and was absent as England defeated Italy 37-0 at St James' Park on Friday in their final warm-up match ahead of the tournament in Japan.

Jones' men led 9-0 at half-time thanks to a trio of Owen Farrell penalties, but Ben Youngs, Joe Marchant, Ellis Genge and Anthony Watson touched down in the second half as Italy were put to the sword in Newcastle.

England next face Tonga in their opening Pool C game in Sapporo on September 22 and take on United States four days later, meaning Saracens forward Vunipola is expected to return against either Argentina or France.

"He's probably going to be right for the third or fourth game," said Jones.

"He just had a little scar tissue which was impairing his movement. But that's all been fixed. He's progressing really well now."

On whether he was worried about taking an injured Vunipola to the World Cup, Jones added: "No, not at all. He's a very important player for us.

"We feel that he's going to be ready to contribute in the World Cup. We've got two looseheads with us who are in great form, one who can play tighthead, so we've got three tightheads as well.

"We're confident that he'll make a great contribution for us."

Exeter Chiefs wing Jack Nowell will also miss England's first two World Cup games after dealing with an ankle injury and appendicitis.

"Jack Nowell is probably in the same category [as Vunipola]," Jones added. "They are important players for us, so we are prepared to be patient with them."

With Aymeric Laporte on the sidelines, Manchester City are looking for reinforcements.

Laporte's knee injury has left City with John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi as their only recognised centre-backs.

Could a star defender from Serie A be the answer in January?

 

TOP STORY – CITY LOOK TO SKRINIAR

Pep Guardiola wants defensive reinforcements in January and Manchester City are set to target Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar, according to CalcioMercato.

Aymeric Laporte is set for a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury, depleting City's options as they eye a third consecutive Premier League title.

Inter star Skriniar has emerged as an option for City, though the Italian side are not keen on losing the 24-year-old – who was linked to Manchester United in the off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport reports Real Madrid will try to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe at the end of the season. Madrid were linked with Neymar prior to the transfer deadline but now appear set to target his PSG team-mate.

- According to Aksam, Liverpool will monitor the form of Trabzonspor goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir throughout the season.

- Tuttomercatoweb says Napoli are ready to re-sign Arkadiusz Milik, Piotr Zielinski and Nikola Maksimovic, while a contract extension for Gianluigi Donnarumma is AC Milan's priority.

- Former AC Milan forward Jeremy Menez wants to return to Serie A via Sampdoria, according to CalcioMercato. The 32-year-old former France international is a free agent after leaving Mexican side Club America.

- Serie A champions Juventus are eyeing a double swoop for Tottenham stars Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld, says the Daily Mail. Eriksen and Alderweireld are set to become free agents at the end of the season and Inter are also reportedly monitoring the situation.

- Valencia are determined to tie down Carlos Soler and Ferran Torres to new deals, reports SuperDeportes.

Jason Roy has not changed despite his struggles so far in Test cricket, according to England team-mate Rory Burns.

Surrey batsman Roy - such a key cog in the England side that won the Cricket World Cup on home soil earlier this year - has found runs hard to come by during the Ashes series against Australia.

The right-hander managed just 57 runs in six innings at the top of the order and, due to his issues against the new ball, was moved into the middle order for the fourth Test at Old Trafford, swapping positions with Joe Denly.

However, the switch failed to yield immediate results on Friday, with Roy bowled by Josh Hazlewood for 22 as the hosts finished day three on 200-5, still some way shy of Australia's first-innings total of 497-8 declared.

Burns, who battled hard to make 81 on an attritional day, was quick to back his county colleague after play, insisting Roy can build on his latest knock after failing to get into double figures in the previous two Tests.

"I think he's alright. He's still the same old Jason, which is what you like to see," Burns told the media.

"He hasn't changed too much in terms of how he is off the park, so I think that's a good thing.

"Obviously he'd have liked to score today, he got a good start but it's one to build on."

Marcus Rashford said he tests himself against Harry Kane during England training sessions in a bid to improve as a striker.

England take on Bulgaria in Euro 2020 qualifying on Saturday, with Rashford seemingly likely to start in a front three alongside Kane and Raheem Sterling.

The 21-year-old Rashford got his Premier League campaign off to a fine start with two goals in Manchester United's 4-0 victory over Chelsea, but has failed to score since, missing a penalty in the 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace at Old Trafford.

With Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez having left United, the onus is now on Rashford and Anthony Martial to lead the line, though former Red Devils forward Michael Owen believes the academy graduate may not have the desire to become a top goalscorer.

Rashford, however, refuted Owen's claims, insisting he is always aiming to improve, and uses England captain and Tottenham star Kane as his benchmark.

"If you watch training, then you'd see how it all works," Rashford said in a news conference.

"I could use Harry as an example. He's one of the best finishers that I've played with and whenever we do finishing, in my head, it's about being as close to him as possible.

"So if he scores six, you want to score six, if he scores seven, you want to score eight. Little things like that are the bits that people never see.

"Even though we're fighting for the same position, or to be in the same team, we really do drive each other on and it's very important that you have that sort of atmosphere within a team.

"He [Owen] can only go on what he sees. Whereas the people around me [know]. Especially when I was younger, the reason why you started playing is because you see things that you like and for me, it was goals and watching exciting people doing exciting things with the ball.

"So, the important thing is I know what I want, what I want to become and what I will become if I keep my mind on it."

Rashford acknowledged missing chances plays on his mind but he was adamant he feels no extra pressure due to competition for places within the England squad.

"Yes, it haunts you, it's the same for when you score and you know you've had other chances in the game, you're looking [at] what went wrong," Rashford said.

"Here, it's a bit more simple because Harry's record is unbelievable. That's a way for him to get his goals and the squad support that.

"I don't think it's something to fear, I think you need it. If you don't have [pressure], it's difficult for motivation to improve. You need the players around you to push each other."

England rounded out their preparations for the Rugby World Cup with an emphatic 37-0 win over Italy at St James' Park on Friday.

Eddie Jones' much-changed side completed their warm-up fixtures by scoring four tries without reply in Newcastle, captain Owen Farrell converting them all as he finished with a personal haul of 17 points.

However, while they stretched their winning record against Italy to 26 Tests, England produced a performance of two contrasting halves in their final outing before this year's tournament in Japan.

They led only 9-0 at the break thanks to a hat-trick of Farrell penalties and were fortunate not to concede in defence, Tommaso Benvenuti appearing to get around Jonny May only to drop the ball as he headed for the line.

Farrell failed with a penalty attempt early in the second half but England crossed for their first try not long after their skipper's miss, scrum-half Ben Youngs getting over from close range.

Joe Marchant marked his first Test start by crossing in the 53rd minute, the centre – picked by Jones for the game despite not being included in the final 31-man party for the World Cup – slicing through some flimsy tackling to score.

Replacement Ellis Genge benefited from his colleagues in the pack to get his maiden international try when finishing off a powerful maul, Farrell's successful conversion making it 30-0.

The fly-half was also on target after setting up the final try for team-mate Anthony Watson, who capitalised on a tiring Italy defence to breeze through a huge gap and slide over.

Jones will hope to receive a clean bill of health from those involved before England fly out on Sunday. Their opening Pool C fixture is against Tonga on September 22.

Josh Hazlewood hailed "machine" Pat Cummins after Australia's pacemen summoned up a final-session burst to put England in trouble on day three of the fourth Ashes Test.

Rory Burns and Joe Root frustrated the tourists with a third-wicket stand of 141 at Old Trafford after Hazlewood removed nightwatchman Craig Overton in the second over of the day.

Australia were eager to make up for lost time, with no play possible before lunch due to rain in Manchester, but Burns and Root dug in on a slow, dry pitch.

Hazlewood (4-48) did the damage after tea, removing Burns (81), Root (71) and Jason Roy (22) to leave England with work to do on 200-5 in reply to 497-8 declared.

Cummins was outstanding, particularly in a relentless, hostile 10-over spell at the Brian Statham End.

At stumps, Hazlewood was full of praise for the top-ranked Test bowler in the world.

Hazlewood said: "Patty rarely bowls a bad spell to be honest. He was fantastic in the evening session.

"He's always at the batsman, just keeps getting better each time he bowls. It is good to have him in the team.

"He's a machine really. He had all that bad luck with injury during his late teens and early 20s.

"He has always been a great athlete so it was always a matter of time until his body hardened up. He is the all-round package. Hopefully, it continues for him."

Josh Hazlewood did the damage but a magnificent spell from Pat Cummins set up Australia's final-session momentum swing at Old Trafford on day three.

Rory Burns and Joe Root frustrated the tourists after no play was possible before lunch on Friday due to rain.

Hazlewood removed nightwatchman Craig Overton in the second over when play finally got under way, but Burns and Root dug in to prevent any further damage from being done before tea.

Steve Smith's double-century on Thursday enabled Australia to post a mammoth 497-8, making them strong favourites to take a 2-1 lead - and retain the urn.

Burns and Root were in no mood to roll over a fortnight after England were humiliatingly dismissed for only 67 in their first innings at Headingley, before going on to pull off a stunning victory.

Try as they might, the elusive breakthrough simply would not come for the Australia bowlers, but persistence paid off after tea on a gloomy evening.

Hazlewood removed Burns (81), Root (71) and the vulnerable Jason Roy (22) as England lost three wickets for 30 runs before closing on 200-5.

Yet it was Cummins who was the standout bowler in batting friendly-conditions and a 10-over spell either side of tea in particular showed why he is the top-ranked Test bowler in the world.

The paceman was relentless as he pounded in time and again without reward on a cold day in Manchester, where the recalled Mitchell Starc failed to make an impact.

He rapped Burns on the gloves and peppered the left-hander with rapid short deliveries, beating the bat and drawing edges on a slow, dry pitch.

Cummins, blighted by injuries earlier in his career, continued to steam in with an exhibition of control, hostility and skill, leaving Root writhing in agony after hitting him on the knee.

A brilliant 10 consecutive overs from the Brian Statham End kept Burns and Root on their toes before he was finally replaced by Hazlewood.

Hazlewood's burst left England in the mire, but it was Cummins who softened them up.

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