England need 119 runs to win the rearranged fifth Test and secure a drawn series with India after a superb day four put them in position to pull off a record chase.

Delayed by a year after a COVID-19 outbreak in the India camp forced a Test originally scheduled for Old Trafford to be cancelled, a fascinating conclusion is in store at Edgbaston.

The hosts will have confidence of chasing down 378 after reaching stumps on 259-3 with the two men who hit the winning runs as England clinched a 3-0 win over New Zealand last week - Joe Root (76 not out) and Jonny Bairstow (72no) continuing their outstanding form.

India, who have dominated much of this match, were earlier dismissed for 245, and a seemingly ominous target that would break England's previous record chase of 362 against Australia in 2019.

Stokes (4-33) polished off the India tail with the final three wickets. Prior to that, Matthew Potts (2-50) did much of the hard work in reducing the tourists - who were 125-3 at the start of play - from what had looked like a commanding position at 153-3, with smart hands from Root allowing Jack Leach to remove the dangerous Rishabh Pant (57).

Despite getting little from their lower order, India may have felt comfortable defending such a lofty target. Any such feeling was quickly dispelled as Alex Lees and Zak Crawley belied their struggles opening the batting by reaching 100 inside 20 overs.

Crawley was denied his 50 as he left a Jasprit Bumrah delivery that clipped off stump and when the bowler removed Ollie Pope for a duck and Lees was run out after tea, India looked to be turning the tide.

But as they did consistently against New Zealand, Root and Bairstow wrested the momentum in aggressive fashion, both once again displaying the fluency and timing that has turned England's Test fortunes around and could now rescue this series.

 

Anderson achieves another milestone

Jimmy Anderson was not overly involved in limiting India's second-innings lead in a wicket-taking capacity, but his catch at midwicket to dismiss Shreyas Iyer saw him join a select group as he claimed his 100th catch.

Indeed, he became the sixth player in Tests to register 1000 runs, 100 wickets and 100 catches. Also on that list are Garfield Sobers, Ian Botham, Carl Hooper, Shane Warne and Jacques Kallis.

Lees and Crawley lay platform

Lees' half-century came in just 44 balls, making it the fourth-fastest by an England opener. His stand of 107 with Crawley was England's sixth fourth-innings opening partnership of 100 or more this century. It was also the highest such England partnership at Edgbaston.

After a Bumrah-inspired blip, Root and Bairstow took advantage of that platform, putting on 150 in 197 balls. Bairstow's lone six was England's 58th of 2022, putting them seven shy of their record total of 65 from 2005 with a three-Test series with South Africa and a tour of Pakistan still to come.

Tom Curry will play no further part in England's tour of Australia after he was ruled out for the remaining two games through concussion.

The Sale Sharks flanker started for Eddie Jones' side in Saturday's first Test in Perth, but was replaced by Lewis Ludlam at the half-time break as the Wallabies snapped their losing streak in a dramatic 30-28 fightback win.

Curry had travelled to Brisbane for the tourists' next match, but will now fly back to England later this week in what is a sizeable blow.

The 24-year-old - a member of the British and Irish Lions party that toured South Africa last year - is considered a frontrunner for Jones' squad at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

"It has been agreed that in the interest of player welfare and recovery, [Curry] will take no further part in the tour," the Rugby Football Union confirmed in a brief statement.

It is not yet known whether England will call up a replacement for Curry, who is the first noticeable injury the tourists have had to deal with.

The Sharks star - a Premiership Cup winner with the club in 2020, a year on from playing in England's World Cup final defeat to the Springboks in Japan - will continue further assessment upon his return to England.

India recovered from Jonny Bairstow clinching yet another century to finish an eventful third day of the fourth Test against England with a healthy 257-run lead.

Bairstow led a fine England counter in a thrilling morning session, bringing up his third century in as many Tests as the hosts looked to make up for a poor start to their first innings.

But after Bairstow's team-mates toiled in being bowled out for 284, India recovered from the early loss of Shubman Gill to reach 125-3 by close of play, leaving the hosts with it all to do on day four. 

The hosts enjoyed some good fortune upon resuming, with skipper Ben Stokes (25-36) being dropped in inexplicable fashion by Jasprit Bumrah before gifting the visiting captain a catch with an identical shot off the very next ball.

As has often been the case since Brendon McCullum took charge, England were left to rely on the brilliant Bairstow, who dragged them into contention by bringing up his century – the 11th of his Test career - off 119 balls shortly after lunch.

But their momentum dissipated when Mohammed Shami had him caught for 106 off 140 to reduce England to 241-7, before Mohammed Siraj dismissed Stuart Broad (1-5) in the very next over and finished the innings 4-66 after accounting for Sam Billings (36-57) and Matthew Potts (19-18).

Needing a fast start to have any hope of teeing up another successful chase, England were boosted when James Anderson had Gill (4-3) caught at slip, his fourth Test dismissal of the India opener.

Broad and Stokes then claimed a wicket apiece as Hanuma Vihari (11-44) and the out-of-form Virat Kohli (20-44) were felled, before Cheteshwar Pujara bought up a slow half-century off 139 balls. 

He and Rishabh Pant (30 not out) were then content to see the day out in quiet fashion, with England now requiring wickets to fall quickly on Monday.

Brilliant Bairstow drags England into contention

The pressure was on when England resumed on Sunday, and Bairstow – so often the key man in the early days of McCullum's red-ball revolution, stepped up after a bout of sledging from Kohli.

In recording his first century against India in Test cricket, Bairstow went from 13 off 61 balls to 100 off 119, going up through the gears in rapid fashion when England needed him most.

Siraj halts hosts' progress

With England having recovered from 84-5 to 241-7 by Bairstow's dismissal, India could have been forgiven for thinking back to the way McCullum's men conducted three successful chases of over 250 against New Zealand in their recent series whitewash.

But Siraj stepped up to claim a four-wicket haul as India held off their hosts, leaving England requiring something special to level the series at 2-2.

England might need another act of Jonny Bairstow heroism to dig them out of a deep hole at Edgbaston after India made the home side suffer on a rain-hit second day of the fifth Test.

In a wild morning session, India went from 338-7 to 416 all out, Ravindra Jadeja completing a century by moving from 83 to 104 before being bowled by James Anderson.

India scored a world-record 35 runs from one Stuart Broad over as captain Jasprit Bumrah took centre stage with the bat. Bumrah is better known for his work with the ball, and the skipper then reduced England to 44-3 when he sent back Alex Lees, Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope.

After a two-hour rain break, the third such interruption of the innings, England lost former skipper Joe Root for 31, and nightwatchman Jack Leach followed, with Bairstow (12 not out) and captain Ben Stokes (0 no) together at the close. England were 84-5 at stumps, nowhere near where they hoped to be in the contest.

India are 2-1 ahead in this series, one that began last year but had to be curtailed before the fifth Test got under way due to COVID-19 concerns in the tourists' ranks. This long-delayed match is therefore decisive, with England needing a victory to force a drawn series.

Rather than go after the win, avoiding a heavy defeat could become the priority, but at this stage the hosts will still believe they can salvage this situation, given positivity is flowing through the team after the recent 3-0 rout of New Zealand.

Broad had a rotten morning, entering the record books in unwanted fashion when Bumrah set about his bowling. The previous Test record of 28 runs from an over was obliterated, aided by Broad bowling a high wide that raced to the boundary before being clubbed for six off a no-ball.

Bumrah finished on 31 not out when Broad held a catch off James Anderson (5-60) to remove Mohammed Siraj in the next over.

Three rain delays affected England's reply, but the batting was not up to scratch. The most damaging dismissal was surely that of Root to a snorter of a delivery that climbed rapidly into the batsman, drawing a thin edge to wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant. Now Bairstow, whose past three Test scores have been 136, 162 and 71 not out, will aim to lead a recovery effort alongside the skipper.


Anderson at it again

It still defies belief that England's previous regime looked ready to discard Anderson. He might turn 40 later this month, but few seamers in world cricket can rival his skill, and India again found him so difficult to play. A 32nd five-wicket haul of his Test career was his sixth against India.

England have done it before, so can they do it again?

England hardly need to look far back in the history books for inspiration. In the third Test against New Zealand, they were 55-6 in their first innings but rallied to post 360 all out. The seventh-wicket stand of 241 runs between Bairstow and Jamie Overton saved the day that time, and something special is required again here.

Eddie Jones suggested Darcy Swain's first-half dismissal worked in Australia's favour as England crashed to a dismal fourth defeat in a row.

England initially took advantage of their opponents being down to 14 men thanks to Ellis Genge's try early in the second half, only to then collapse in remarkable style.

Jordan Petaia, Folau Fainga'a and Pete Samu crossed over to put Australia out of sight, with Henry Arundell and Jack van Poortvliet tries mere consolations for England.

The visitors were five points ahead with 20 minutes left but went on to lose 30-28, and Jones says their terrible final-quarter showing was not helped by Swain's earlier sending off.

"In some ways, the red card can work against you. Sometimes the referee wants to compensate. We didn't adjust as well as we should have," Jones told Sky Sports.

"We had enough moments to win the game. At 14-9 with 20 minutes to go we should have put it away. The reaction from the boys is to win this series 2-1. We have to go again.

"The message at half-time was to keep putting pressure on and we did that in spurts. We lost the ball twice on their try-line and we didn't pressure them, whereas Australia did. 

"We need to work on our finishing and a bit on our defence as well. There are still some positives to come from what has been a very disappointing result for us."

Jones clarified at his news conference that he did not blame referee James Doleman for his side's defeat in Perth, but reiterated Swain's exit inadvertently helped Australia.

"You look at the history of the game, whenever you get a red card the referee evens it up. He helps the team with the red card," he said.

"It's social reciprocity, it happens, that's normal and we've got to be good enough to handle it.

"It happens in every game of rugby I've seen. The team gets a red card and the opposition gets evened up. Because they're nice blokes, referees.

"I'm not criticising the referees, I'm not using it as an excuse, that's the reality of rugby.

"I'll say it again. I think when you play against 14 men the referee has a significant impact on the game and you've got to be good enough to understand what that is.

"We weren't good enough to understand what that is and therefore we paid the price."

England's defeat was their first against Australia in nine Tests amid a run stretching back to October 2015, pre-dating Jones' time in charge.

Not only did the home side play more than half of the match a man light, they also lost three players to first-half injuries after Quade Cooper pulled up in the warm-up.

Swain was repeatedly provoked by England's players, with Jonny Hill seen pulling his hair, but Australia coach Dave Rennie is unsure if that was a deliberate ploy from the opposition.

"I'm not sure if it was a team plan, but there was certainly provocation there. Not just in that situation but also earlier in the game," he said.

"We'll have a decent look at the footage and work out how we're going to appeal that. We'll have decent look at the card. We'll be seeking clarity around it.

"We train with the scenario of playing with 14 or 13 players all the time. What we know is that we just have to work harder. We found a way."

Australia have now won their last five Tests on home soil – their best-such run since 2008 – and five of their last eight when hosting European opposition.

The second match in the three-Test series takes place in Brisbane next Saturday, before concluding in Sydney the following weekend.

Australia snapped an eight-match losing run against England in thrilling fashion with a 30-28 victory at Optus Stadium in Perth, despite playing more than half of Saturday's contest with 14 men.

The hosts lost fly-half Quade Cooper to injury just before kick-off and were given an even bigger headache when Darcy Swain was dismissed six minutes before half-time for headbutting Jonny Hill.

Eddie Jones' men were leading 6-0 at that point thanks to a couple of Owen Farrell penalties and looked good value to extend their winning streak in this fixture, only for Noah Lolesio to level from the boot before the interval, by which point Australia had lost three more to injury.

England finally managed to shake off their opponents when some great execution and patience from a maul allowed Ellis Genge to cross over for the first try of the three-Test series, but Australia again refused to give up and edged in front through a Jordan Petaia try 15 minutes later.

That led to a remarkable England collapse, with Folau Fainga'a claiming the ball from a line-out and sneaking through just two minutes after being introduced, before Pete Samu added a third try following another fine team drive.

Lolesio converted all three of those tries but was sin-binned for a deliberate knock on, meaning Australia were down to 13 men late on, at which point debutant Henry Arundell raced through with his first involvement after being brought on.

Another England debutant in Jack van Poortvliet finished shortly after, with Farrell again adding the extras, but England did not have a chance to resume play in a defeat that will lead to more questions being asked of Jones.

England paceman Stuart Broad was put to the sword by Jasprit Bumrah as India set a Test record for the most runs scored in an over.

The previous record of 28 runs was obliterated as India grabbed 35 from Broad's shocking set of six, with Bumrah doing most of the damage.

The rout began with a top-edged hook to the boundary for four, before Broad's over descended into chaos as a high wide scurried off to the boundary to give India five free runs, and the next ball, a no-ball, was flung away for six.

Bumrah lashed each of the next three deliveries for four as India reached 28 from the first four permissible deliveries, before the India captain clattered Broad away for a second six of the over.

India had 34 with one ball remaining, and this time Broad sent down a yorker, with Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj scrambling a single.

The onslaught took India from 377-9 to 412-9 on the second morning of the match, with the tourists adding just four more in the next over before James Anderson had Siraj caught by the fed-up Broad.

This fifth Test at Edgbaston is a long-delayed series decider, having been postponed from last September, when it was due to be played at Old Trafford, due to COVID-19 concerns in the India camp.

Anderson and England colleague Joe Root were two of the three players who had previously conceded 28 runs from a Test over, to share the unwanted record with South Africa Robin Peterson.

Former West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo helped Worcestershire secure a 29-run win over Lancashire in their Vitality Blast North Group fixture at New Road on Friday.

Worcestershire posted a formidable 178-6 from their 20 overs after being sent in by Lancashire.

Opener Brett D’Oliveira (33) along with captain and England all-rounder Moeen Ali (31) were the main scorers while Kashif Ali (27) and New Zealander Colin Munro (26) also made valuable contributions.

Bravo, batting at number eight, played a decent cameo of 10 not out from five balls including one six.

Leg-spinner Luke Wells led the way with the ball for Lancashire with 2-26 from his four overs.

Lancashire’s reply can only be described as top-heavy as openers Phil Salt (44) and newly appointed England white ball captain Jos Buttler (42) were the only batsmen to pass 20 as they were dismissed for just 149 in 19.3 overs.

D’Oliveira capped off a fine all-round display with 4-20 from his four overs of leg-spin while Pat Brown and Moeen Ali took two wickets each.

Bravo, the leading wicket-taker in T20 history with 594 in 540 matches, added another to his tally with 1-26 from 3.3 overs.

Worcestershire remain at the bottom of the North Group with two wins, 10 losses, and one no-result from 13 games while Lancashire stay second with seven wins, four losses, and one no-result.

 

 

Rishabh Pant's inspired counter-attack ensured India ended day one of the final Test against England at Edgbaston still firmly in the match.

England came into the rearranged final encounter of last year's series on a high following the whitewash of New Zealand and soon reduced India to 98-5, before Pant (146 off 111) and Ravindra Jadeja (83 not out) led the fightback.

Their partnership of 222 – in which Pant did the heavy lifting with a barrage of boundaries and the fastest Test century by an India wicketkeeper – helped carry the tourists to 338-7 by stumps.

Ben Stokes had unsurprisingly put India in to bat, potentially pursuing a fourth successive successful fourth-innings chase.

The England captain first needed his bowlers to deliver, and James Anderson (3-52) did exactly that in the morning session in tempting edges from Shubman Gill (17) and Cheteshwar Pujara (13) – Zak Crawley taking each catch either side of putting down a chance from Hanuma Vihari off the bowling of Matthew Potts.

Rain interrupted play – bringing an early lunch – but not England's momentum, as Potts (2-85) pinned Vihari (20) and then bamboozled Virat Kohli (11), who pulled his bat away too late and saw the ball run off the face into his stumps.

Anderson's third wicket from Shreyas Iyer (15) owed a great deal to a superb Sam Billings catch, yet Pant's big hitting turned the tide – helped by some increasingly untidy work from England.

Pant eventually departed to Joe Root, nicking to Crawley in attempting another blast to pass 150, but the hosts still have work to do with the ball before they will again be asked to score well with the bat in a continuation of this entertaining new era under Stokes.

New foe for Kohli

Many have pondered the possibility this is the last time Anderson and Kohli come face to face in a Test match, given the England great turns 40 later this month. No bowler has claimed more Kohli wickets in Tests than Anderson (seven).

But this time it was the turn of the new man. Potts had stunning figures of 3-3 bowling to Kane Williamson in the New Zealand series and quickly added another huge scalp, with Kohli now averaging an underwhelming 28.63 for this delayed series.

Pant profits

Despite India's 2-1 lead as they bid to win a Test series in England for the first time since 2007, Kohli was not alone in struggling slightly with the bat last year. Pant's series average entering this match was 20.86, with a high score of 50.

But suspicions England's aggressive approach could soon meet their match were affirmed by his ability to find the boundary time and again, avoiding the sort of errors on which Stokes' attack might have preyed. Pant had 23 boundaries in this innings, surpassing his 15 in the previous four matches between the sides combined.

Uncapped Lancashire seamer Richard Gleeson is the new face in Jos Buttler's first white-ball squads as England captain for the upcoming ODI and T20I series against India.

Bowler Gleeson joins his domestic team-mate in his first selection since succeeding the retiring Eoin Morgan as skipper last month.

The 34-year-old has taken 70 wickets in 64 domestic T20 matches and posted career-best figures of 5-33 against Worcestershire Rapids in this season's T20 Blast.

Elsewhere, there are a mix of familiar names for Buttler and coach Matthew Mott, although Yorkshire bowler Adil Rashid is absent after the ECB gave him permission to make The Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

Harry Brook is named in both squads, seemingly the beneficiary of Morgan's retirement.

Brook was an unused member of Ben Stokes' first Test squad, with the red-ball team's own new era getting off to a roaring start with a series whitewash against New Zealand.

Star Test batsmen Stokes, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow were all named to Buttler's ODI group.

But there is no room for David Payne and Luke Wood, who made the ODI trip to the Netherlands last month, while Dawid Malan only makes the 20-over team.

Tom Banton, James Vince, George Garton and Sam Billings miss out from the T20I squad that toured the West Indies in January.

England T20I squad : Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Harry Brook (Yorkshire), Sam Curran (Surrey), Richard Gleeson (Lancashire), Chris Jordan (Surrey), Liam Livingstone (Lancashire), Dawid Malan (Yorkshire), Tymal Mills (Sussex), Matthew Parkinson (Lancashire), Jason Roy (Surrey), Phil Salt (Lancashire), Reece Topley (Surrey), David Willey (Yorkshire).

England ODI squad : Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Harry Brook (Yorkshire), Brydon Carse (Durham), Sam Curran (Surrey), Liam Livingstone (Lancashire), Craig Overton (Somerset), Matthew Parkinson (Lancashire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Jason Roy (Surrey), Phil Salt (Lancashire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Reece Topley (Surrey), David Willey (Yorkshire).

Michael Hooper says Australia are ready to "rip in" and "turn the ledger" on England when they do battle in the first Test on Saturday.

England have won eight consecutive matches against the Wallabies ahead of the showdown at Optus Stadium.

Australia captain Hooper is determined to end that dismal run in Perth this weekend and take a 1-0 lead over Eddie Jones' side in the three-match series

"It's a motivation to win and turn the ledger," he said.

"We have three games at home to do it. It’s been a long time since we’ve played these fellas out here, so we're excited about it.

"It's the top rivalry, isn’t it? Having the Ashes at the back end of last year and this year, the whole of Australian population gets behind whether they're here or in England, it's bragging rights, so it's big for the fans and us.

"There’s some great history between the two teams and two teams rolling into a World Cup next year.

"We're really excited, history hasn’t been in our favour for quite some time now against the English and we're keen to rip in.

"They’re always a tough outfit. They’ve picked a powerful team with some real skill and experience involved there. We’re expecting a tough time."

Hooker David Porecki and lock Cadeyrn Neville will make their Wallabies debuts on Saturday.

At the age of 33 years and 235 days, Neville is to become the third-oldest Australia debutant since World War II.

 

Michael Hooper says Australia are ready to "rip in" and "turn the ledger" on England when they do battle in the first Test on Saturday.

England have won eight consecutive matches against the Wallabies ahead of the showdown at Optus Stadium.

Australia captain Hooper is determined to end that dismal run in Perth this weekend and take a 1-0 lead over Eddie Jones' side in the three-match series

"It's a motivation to win and turn the ledger," he said.

"We have three games at home to do it. It’s been a long time since we’ve played these fellas out here, so we're excited about it.

"It's the top rivalry, isn’t it? Having the Ashes at the back end of last year and this year, the whole of Australian population gets behind whether they're here or in England, it's bragging rights, so it's big for the fans and us.

"There’s some great history between the two teams and two teams rolling into a World Cup next year.

"We're really excited, history hasn’t been in our favour for quite some time now against the English and we're keen to rip in.

"They’re always a tough outfit. They’ve picked a powerful team with some real skill and experience involved there. We’re expecting a tough time."

Hooker David Porecki and lock Cadeyrn Neville will make their Wallabies debuts on Saturday.

At the age of 33 years and 235 days, Neville is to become the third-oldest Australia debutant since World War II.

 

Henry Arundell could be a "significant player" by the time of the 2023 Rugby World Cup, says England coach Eddie Jones, who compared him to the legendary Bryan Habana after his exploits in training.

The London Irish back is in line for his international debut after he was named on the bench for the tourists' first match of their three-game series against hosts Australia in Perth.

While Jones has rung the changes elsewhere across his squad – with Owen Farrell stripped of the captaincy and Courtney Lawes installed with the armband – he has nevertheless been impressed by the 19-year-old's skill.

Speaking ahead of Saturday's opener at Perth Stadium, the coach illustrated the teenager's exploits amid his squad's preparation – and suggested he could emulate South Africa winger Habana with a bright, fast future.

"Henry scored...how long is the field, 100 metres? He scored a 90-metre try at training on Wednesday. There were a few, I won't use the expletives, 'he's fast!' heard," Jones said.

"We had a number of coaches from different sports watching and they heard this comment.

"He scored a try not many other players in the world would have scored. It was like a try Bryan Habana used to score – one of those.

"He could be a very good player but he's got a long way to go. We feel like if he continues his development and we're able to give him some game time on this tour, by the World Cup he could be a significant player."

England will follow their game in Perth with successive clashes in Brisbane on July 9 and Sydney on July 16, with the visitors looking to extend their eight-match winning streak against Australia.

Jones is looking to reverse a slump in his side's form, ahead of next year's World Cup, where they are currently drawn alongside Japan, Argentina and Samoa in Pool D.

Ben Stokes warned England are capable of taking their aggressive new approach to another level ahead of the rearranged fifth Test against India.

England started a new era under Test captain Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum by beating New Zealand 3-0.

They went on the attack in three big run chases to whitewash the Black Caps, who defeated India to win the inaugural World Test Championship final last year.

England will get the chance to continue riding the crest of a wave at Edgbaston on Friday, aiming to draw the series 2-2 in a match that was due to be played at Old Trafford last year, only for India to head home early due to fears over an increase in coronavirus cases in their camp.

Asked if England can be even more positive in the longest format, Stokes replied: "If there's a team that can, it's us."

Stokes did not play in the four Tests against India last year, as he was taking a break to protect his mental health while also recovering from a broken finger.

The all-rounder is relishing an opportunity to maintain the momentum now, though.

"It is a bit strange," he said. "It is different opposition, but I made it very clear after the New Zealand series how we're going to do things, and we're going to go out there and try to operate in the same way."

James Anderson replaces Jamie Overton after missing the victory over the Black Caps at Headingley due to an ankle injury, while wicketkeeper-batter Sam Billings plays as Ben Foakes has not fully recovered from COVID-19.

Paceman Jasprit Bumrah will captain the tourists for the first time in the absence of Rohit Sharma, who is sidelined after contracting coronavirus.

India have not won an away Test series against England since 2007, and they have never won at Edgbaston in the longest format, losing six matches and drawing one.

Bairstow in the form of his life

Jonny Bairstow has thrived on having license to play with freedom in a new dawn for England.

Bairstow and former captain Joe Root were outstanding with the bat against New Zealand, scoring 394 and 396 runs respectively in six knocks.

The powerful Bairstow has racked up 774 runs this year at an average of 64.5. Only in 2016 (1,470 runs at 58.8) has he scored more in a single year since his debut in the format in 2012.

Kohli closing in on landmark as he eyes elusive century

Virat Kohli was unable to score a long-awaited century against Sri Lanka in March after stepping down as captain.

You have to go back to November 2019 for his last Test hundred, which came against Bangladesh. 

Kohli only needs another 40 runs to reach the 2,000 mark against England in Tests, a feat that only Sachin Tendulkar (2,535) and Sunil Gavaskar (2,483) have achieved.

Eddie Jones has the respect of England's players but must deliver results if he is to lift pressure from his shoulders ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup, according to former Australia captain George Gregan.

Experienced coach Jones had his future called into question on the back of another poor Six Nations campaign for England, who finished a distant third behind Ireland and champions France with two wins from five matches.

Jones is under contract until after the 2023 World Cup and has been given the support of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), although performance director Conor O'Shea confirmed in March the search is under way for the 62-year-old's long-term successor.

Former Australia boss Jones has repeatedly stated that peaking in time for next year's showpiece in France is his big aim, with his side's three-Test series Down Under – their first summer tour in four years – providing an opportunity to further experiment.

While Gregan can understand the questions being asked of Jones, the retired scrum-half – who played under Jones for Australia and the Brumbies – understands supporters want to see signs of progress now.

"I think pressure is always there with a head coach," said Gregan, ahead of Saturday's first Test in Perth. "I'm not going to speak on his behalf, but he knows that as a head coach it's all results driven in professional sport.

"If you're not getting the results, and particularly if you're not getting consistent Ws [wins], then it does come around: 'Why is the team not performing?' That was definitely the case with Six Nations where there's patches of really good performances.

"But then obviously some things also which can get taken out of your hands, which is decision-making, you lose plays in the bin, all that kind of stuff. But that's rugby. And so how do you adapt? And how do you adjust? But they're all good experiences and learning experiences.

"I know there was no Jonny May, there was no Owen Farrell, there's a lot of players missing in that Six Nations campaign, they'll probably take part in this coming tour. And then he's built a nice squad."

Gregan is supporting The Open Championship Claret Jug Tour, partnered with HSBC UK, and he added: "I think you've always got your eyes a little bit ahead for the World Cup. And that's definitely the case for someone like Eddie and all coaches, but it's also the here and now, and they'll be looking to really improve and try not to drop out of games. I think every good team wants to do that."

 

England may have struggled for consistent form, but they have won their last eight Tests against Australia since October 2015, conceding an average of just 14 points per game across the last four of those matches.

Jones is undefeated against his country of birth during his near-seven-year England tenure, meanwhile, and famously oversaw a series whitewash in 2016.

Gregan believes the England boss will have the full backing of his dressing room.

"Eddie is a real players' coach. He's really driven to create the best environment for his players to perform," Gregan said. "He's the hardest marker on the team's performance on himself. I think you see that a lot.

"He'll deflect to the team when it's doing well, and he’ll take ownership when it's not doing well. That's a classic head coach, and he's never wavered from that. And I think that's why the players really respect him.

"He's hard, he's very consistent in terms of his messaging. He's very clear on what he wants the team to do. But he also empowers the playing group to try and do that. And that's the coach's coach.

"And ultimately, I think from my experiences with Eddie, he really wants the players to be sort of taking the reins on the field and making sure they're really comfortable making decisions to provide support.

"But as you know, coaches are sort of in the grandstand, there's only a limited amount that they can do once the players are on the pitch. I think that's what he tries to do, and all good head coaches try to encourage those leaders and the players on the field to make good decisions, which hopefully put you on the right side of the ledger."

Australia have lost three straight Tests heading into their first fixture with England this weekend, two of those by a margin of no more than two points – the last time they lost more successive games was a four-game stretch from June to August in 2018.

However, the Wallabies have won their last four matches on home turf, and four of their past seven when hosting European opposition, which Gregan believes will make for an entertaining series.

"England playing Australia in any sport is always exciting – particularly rugby," Gregan said. "Obviously there's that little touch with Eddie being a former Wallabies coach and obviously Australian. And he's had a great record against the Wallabies since he's taken over the helm in English rugby.

"It's gonna be a fantastic series, Dave Rennie, the Wallaby coaching staff and the playing group will be really targeting the series as something, which is another step in the right direction for being consistent and beating some of the top international teams.

"Perth, Brisbane and Sydney, on the bounce. So, three big Test matches over three consecutive weeks. And I think both teams, stating the obvious, will want to get off to a pretty hot start in Perth, because it's always good to be one up in those types of series."


:: The Open Championship Claret Jug Tour will visit schools, golf clubs, city centres and HSBC branches.

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