England players described their pride even in defeat to Ireland on Saturday after playing more than 78 minutes of the Six Nations match with 14 men.

The Red Rose's championship hopes were ended by the 32-15 reverse at Twickenham – their heaviest ever home Test loss to Ireland – but few fans had any issues with the team's fight and desire.

Charlie Ewels was shown a red card after just a minute and 22 seconds for his dangerous tackle on James Ryan – the earliest dismissal in a Six Nations match – giving England a huge uphill battle.

Eddie Jones' men still might have upset title-chasing Ireland, who were all square at 15-15 heading into the closing stages before taking the match away from their hosts.

Rather than rue their failure to take their championship challenge to Grand Slam candidates France for their fifth and final game, England's battlers preferred to reflect upon a heroic effort.

Hooker Jamie George said: "Right up to that last try, I genuinely had belief, and I think that says a huge amount about the character we have in the squad.

"This sounds ridiculous but it's one of the proudest days I've had in an England shirt. I genuinely feel that. I feel quite emotional from this game and the feedback we had from the crowd.

"Playing a team like Ireland, they're respected as one of the best teams in the world. To play like that with 14 men for 78 minutes takes some doing, and I'm proud to be part of the group."

Full-back Freddie Steward suggested this performance should set the standard for England sides moving forward.

"You come into a game, and you never expect that to happen," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. "The boys responded really well.

"It would have been easy for us to lose a man and for heads to drop and them to walk all over us. I think that shows the spirit of this team. We fought, we dug in, the boys gave it everything. There's a lot to learn from that."

Steward added: "We sat in at half-time and we had a genuine belief that we could go and win the game. The boys came out in that second half and wanted to do it, we wanted to do it.

"Unfortunately, on 60, 70 minutes, we ran out of steam at the end there.

"But I think this team is one that is not going to give up. We're not going to not fight, and we went to the trenches for each other today."

Ireland coach Andy Farrell was all smiles after his side came through a testing Six Nations encounter with 14-man England thanks to a late show at Twickenham.

A bonus-point 32-15 win saw Ireland pull to within two points on France at the top of the standings, keeping their championship hopes alive ahead of the final round of matches.

England were always on the back foot after a red card for Charlie Ewels after just 82 seconds, but they pulled the contest back to 15-15 in the 60th minute after opening the second half with consecutive penalties.

A heroic victory proved beyond the home side, however, as Ireland scored 17 unanswered points – including 14 in the final 10 minutes.

Despite a perhaps lacklustre performance with a man advantage, the barnstorming finish had Farrell chipper when speaking with the media post-match.

"It was never in doubt, was it?" he joked to RTE.

"At 15-all, the game's in the balance there. When you have 15 against 14, I thought the boys have done really well in some really tough situations.

"They dug deep for one another and came out with what we know is unbelievably hard to do – coming here and getting a bonus point.

"Rolling onto next week with something to play for is what we came to do, and we managed to do that.

Charlie Ewels was sent off after only 82 seconds as Ireland secured a 32-15 bonus-point victory at Twickenham to stay in the hunt to win the Six Nations and end heroic England's hopes of claiming the title.

Ewels was shown the earliest red card in championship history for a dangerous tackle on James Ryan and it looked like the Red Rose would be in for a painful evening when James Lowe crossed early on.

Yet Eddie Jones' side, roared on by a raucous crowd, produced an inspired display despite being a man down, only trailing 15-9 at half-time in an absorbing contest following three Marcus Smith penalties and a Hugo Keenan try for the visitors.

Smith's fourth and fifth penalties brought a spirited England level, but a Johnny Sexton penalty 15 minutes from time put Ireland back in front before late tries from Jack Conan and Finlay Bealham sealed a victory that moved Andy Farrell's men two points adrift of leaders France.

Ireland are at home to Scotland in their last match of the tournament next Saturday and will be hoping for a favour from England when they do battle with Les Bleus in Paris. 

Ewels' participation was over soon after it started, with referee Mathieu Raynal giving the lock his marching orders after he clashed heads with Ryan attempting a tackle.

With a dazed Ryan unable to continue, Sexton slotted over the resulting penalty and Lowe raced down the left to score the opening try in a dramatic start after taking a pass from Josh van der Flier.

Caelan Doris had a try ruled out due to a Garry Ringrose knock-on and Tom Curry limped off before England started to dictate the game despite being a man down, Smith reducing the deficit with two penalties and also missing one.

The Red Rose pack dominated – wing Jack Nowell playing his part in the scrum – but Jamison Gibson-Park's quick free-kick opened the door for Keenan to crash over before Smith's third penalty on the stroke of half-time made it 15-9.

There was another blow for England when Kyle Sinckler failed a head injury assessment at half-time, Will Stuart replacing him, but another Smith penalty left them only three points down.

Fly-half Smith brought them level midway through the second half with another penalty won in a ferocious scrum, but Sexton booted Ireland back into the lead and converted after Conan crashed over from close range after 71 minutes.

Bealham added insult to injury as the pressure told on weary England late on, barging over in the corner and Sexton took his points tally with the boot to 12 by adding the extras.

Ewels gives England a mountain to climb

After a huge build-up to what Eddie Jones had billed as a semi-final, losing Ewels right at the start meant England were always going to be up against it.

Although there was no malice in his tackle on Ryan, French official Raynal felt he had no option but to dismiss the England man. The Red Rose, driven on by a powerful pack, showed great character to make a brilliant game of it and the scoreline did not tell the full story.

Gibson-Park makes Ireland tick

This was certainly not a vintage Ireland performance as they made far too many errors and showed indiscipline, but they looked dangerous every time they attacked and were ruthless as England tired.

Gibson-Park made them tick and has been a revelation at scrum-half, making 59 passes and setting up a try for Keenan that came at an important time late in the first half.

What's next?

Ireland take on Scotland at the Aviva Stadium in the second game of the final weekend before England do battle with Les Bleus in a decisive last match in Paris.

Zak Crawley and Joe Root put on a 193-run stand for the second wicket in England's second innings to boost their hopes of victory in the first Test against West Indies – at least until the weather intervened.

Day four could have been a tricky one for the tourists in Antigua, with any rush of early wickets potentially handing West Indies a clear sight of an opening win.

After Jack Leach concluded the hosts' innings on 375 by taking the wicket of Jayden Seales with the third ball of the day, Crawley, who went on to reach 117 not out, required a review in the first over to overturn an lbw decision.

Fellow opener Alex Lees was not so fortunate, departing for six to Kemar Roach to reduce England to 24-1, still 40 runs behind their opponents.

Yet that brought Root out alongside Crawley, and the captain made an unbeaten 84 in an outstanding partnership that altered England's outlook considerably.

A short rain delay with Crawley on 49 might have ramped up the nerves, but he returned to pass 50 and continue on into three figures, scoring his second Test century.

Root was well on course to follow Crawley when the weather halted England again, with play eventually abandoned for the day after discussions between the umpires and the captains.

Root willing to take a risk?

England are 153 runs ahead on 217-1, in a great position to accelerate their scoring and attempt to win this match rather than settle for a draw. But the early finish on Friday meant their lead was not larger, making any call to go on the offensive a gamble as West Indies could yet themselves excel with the bat.

In the first match of the series, skipper Root may well take the more measured approach – particularly with his bowlers toiling in the first innings.

Crawley knock critical

That Root might have such a dilemma owes a great deal to Crawley, who put a disappointing first-innings score of eight behind him in some style. Had he departed early again, as he might have when a review was required, England would likely have faced a long day looking to protect hopes of a draw.

Crawley's unbeaten 200-ball knock, his score boosted by 16 fours, instead gave the tourists hope of a first away victory in nine Tests.

England are "really optimistic" Maro Itoje will be fit for Saturday's Six Nations showdown with Ireland.

The British and Irish Lions lock has been struggling with illness ahead of the round four clash at Twickenham.

Red Rose forwards coach Matt Proudfoot provided an encouraging update on Itoje on the eve of the game.

He said: "Maro was a little sick overnight so we're just giving him an opportunity to recover, but we're really optimistic he’ll be alright."

England prop Kyle Sinckler recovered from a back injury and will start against second-placed Ireland.

"Kyle fully trained. He had a great training session and looked really good," Proudfoot said.

England and Ireland have won two and lost one of their three matches ahead of a huge encounter in London.

Proudfoot says Eddie Jones' side are in great shape as they battle to win the title.

"For us it's a great opportunity to go after them. The team has trained really, really well and every week it’s got more and more competitive," he said.

"The preparation has been great and when they walked off the field today (Friday), you could see the confidence in the eyes of the players.

"We know we've got to go after them. Ireland have been together for a big part of the year because of their large Leinster contingent, so we know they have that as an advantage, but we're eager for the opportunity.

"It tends to be the deeper you go into the Six Nations, it gets more and more intense. This is probably going to be the most intense game we've played since the Springboks."

France are rolling towards a possible Grand Slam as they arrive in Cardiff for game four in their Six Nations mission, but Fabien Galthie's team must not switch off now.

The championship may yet see a France versus England title decider at the Stade de France next weekend, but whether 'Le Crunch' proves crucial will hinge on results this time around.

A mighty Welsh effort in Cardiff could knock the French juggernaut off course, while Ireland will believe they can achieve a result at Twickenham.

Scotland and Italy, meanwhile, tussle in Rome. That was once typically a Wooden Spoon decider; this time, the Scots are heavy favourites.

Ahead of the fourth round of fixtures, Stats Perform previews each match with help from Opta.

WALES V FRANCE

FORM

Wales have lost each of their last two meetings with France in the Six Nations, after winning seven of their previous eight clashes in the championship. France's 27-23 win at the Principality Stadium two years ago was their first success in Cardiff in the competition since 2010, and France have not won back-to-back away games against Wales since reeling off four in a row from 2000 to 2006.

Wayne Pivac's Wales won at home against Scotland last month but have lost on the road to Ireland and England. The Welsh have pulled off 10 wins from their last 11 matches in Cardiff in the Six Nations, with France the only side to beat them during that sequence.

This France team are living up to their billing as pre-tournament favourites and have won their last six Test matches, their best run since also winning six on the bounce in 2006. They have not won more consecutive internationals since a run of eight in 2004, which included a victory in Cardiff.

ONES TO WATCH

Among players to hit 20 or more attacking rucks in this season's Six Nations, Wales' Ross Moriarty has the best ruck effectiveness rate, cleaning out the opposition or securing possession at 96 per cent of the attacking rucks he has hit (27 of 28). Moriarty is not a starter this week, as Pivac rings the changes, but will surely have a role to play off the bench.

France's Damian Penaud would have been a strong contender here, having beaten 10 defenders in this year's Six Nations, the joint most of any player alongside Scotland's Darcy Graham, with Penaud also achieving a championship-best tackle evasion rate of 77 per cent. Penaud is ruled out by a COVID-19 positive test, so can his fellow wings Yoram Moefana and Gabin Villiere prove as elusive?

 

ITALY V SCOTLAND

FORM

There was a time when Scotland dreaded facing Italy, but those days appear long gone. The Scots have won their last six matches against the Azzurri in the Six Nations, last losing at Murrayfield in 2015. Prior to this dominant era, Scotland had won nine and Italy had won seven of their first 16 clashes in the championship. The Scots have won their last four away games against Italy.

Italy's losing run in the competition has now reached a dismal 35 games, and that Murrayfield victory seven years ago was their last success. Kieran Crowley's team have failed to score a try in their last two Six Nations games, the first time this has happened for Italy since they went on a run of three games without a try in the 2009 championship.

Ali Price is set to win his 50th cap for Scotland. The Glasgow Warriors scrum-half has scored just one try in his seven appearances against Italy, although he has four try assists across his last two Tests against the Azzurri.

ONES TO WATCH

Michele Lamaro has made 59 tackles in this year's Six Nations, at least 13 more than any other player. That is the upside. The downside is that he has also missed the most tackles of any player (13); however, only one of those missed tackles led to a break, with the other 12 seeing the opposition player tackled by a team-mate.

By contrast, Scotland's Hamish Watson has made 31 tackles without missing one so far in this year's competition. Only Ireland's Caelan Doris has made more without missing (36/36). Watson has now made 180 tackles in the championship since his last miss, which came back in 2019 against England.

 

ENGLAND V IRELAND

FORM

England have tended to like this fixture of late, having won four of their last five home games against Ireland in the Six Nations. A 24-15 defeat in 2018 was the exception in this run which started in 2012. England have also won 22 of their last 25 home matches – taking all opponents into account – in the Six Nations (D1, L2).

Yet Ireland are the only side that England have a losing record against in the Six Nations era, winning just 45 per cent of their meetings in the championship (W10, L12).

Whoever leads at half-time seems nailed on for the win. None of the previous 22 Six Nations matches between England and Ireland have seen an interval deficit overturned to bring about a victory for the trailing team.

ONES TO WATCH

England's Marcus Smith is the leading points scorer so far in this year's championship. He has 48 points, meaning Smith is two shy of becoming the fifth different England player to notch up 50 points in an edition of the Six Nations (Jonny Wilkinson 7 times, Toby Flood once, Owen Farrell 6 times, George Ford once).

Ireland's Doris has been a 'nuisance' (slowing the opposition ball) at more rucks (7) than any other player in this year's tournament, Opta data shows.

A tough day in the field for England ended on a positive note with the dismissal of Nkrumah Bonner, but only after his career-best 123 had given West Indies the lead in the first Test.

Day three in Antigua represented something of a slog, although Bonner could reflect fondly on a job well done with the Windies reaching stumps at 373-9 – enough for a 62-run lead.

The number four batsman almost battled out the day, having resumed alongside Jason Holder in a partnership that ended on 79 when Ben Stokes brilliantly removed the former captain for 45.

That was not a sign of things to come for England, however, as they struggled to follow one wicket with another and Bonner formed another impressive stand with Joshua Da Silva (32) for 73 runs.

Jack Leach's wicket of Da Silva looked like being a big one when Alzarri Joseph quickly followed to Craig Overton, but Bonner again found team-mates willing to dig in with him.

His ton came up with Kemar Roach (15) at the other end, with Veerasammy Permaul (26 not out) the next in.

Finally, with stumps nearing, Dan Lawrence was convinced his delivery to Bonner earned a nick on the way through to Ben Foakes, and UltraEdge confirmed the slightest of touches to finally conclude a marathon innings from the batsman.

Best yet from Bonner

This 123 surpassed Bonner's previous Test high of 113 against Sri Lanka last year and was significantly more taxing than that unbeaten score. Indeed, after only one innings, Bonner has already faced more balls in this Test (355) than any other previously in his career.

He had the patience required to chip away at England's bowlers and found enough support from elsewhere, too, as four of his final five partnerships lasted more than 160 balls.

Wood woe on tough day

England limited West Indies to 1.90 runs per over on day three but celebrated only five wickets. It would have been a draining day even with a full complement of bowlers.

As it was, having already left Stuart Broad and James Anderson at home, England lost Mark Wood to injury. He did not bowl a single ball after lunch and his contribution was badly missed.

Eddie Jones has told England to attack their clash with Ireland at Twickenham as though they are playing a tournament semi-final.

The hosts' Six Nations hopes rely on them beating Ireland, and both teams head into the game with two wins and a loss from their opening three games.

Head coach Jones has included Sam Simmonds at number eight for the big game in London, with Alex Dombrandt on the bench after recovering from COVID-19.

Courtney Lawes again skippers the team, with vice-captain Tom Curry fit to feature after recovering from a head injury sustained in the win against Wales last time out.

Joe Launchbury features in an England match squad for the first time since December 2020 after being named among the replacements.

Jones said: "We've been looking at this game as a semi-final. Ireland are the most cohesive side in the world right now and it will be a good test this weekend.

"We've prepared really well for this game. We did some good team togetherness work in Bristol and had a solid week of training on the pitch here.

"We are looking forward to going after them in front of a great home crowd at Twickenham."

England can look at the game in a semi-final sense because their last match in the championship will be a tussle with France, who have a 100 per cent record so far, in Paris.

That has the potential to be a title decider, although Andy Farrell's Ireland could undo England's hopes this weekend.

Ireland have made six changes to the side that beat Italy 57-6 last time out, with veteran fly-half Johnny Sexton restored to the starting XV as captain, taking the place of Joey Carbery.


England team: Steward, Malins, Marchant, Slade, Nowell, Smith, Randall; Genge, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Ewels, Lawes (captain), Curry, Simmonds.

Replacements: Blamire, Marler, Stuart, Launchbury, Dombrandt, Youngs, Ford, Daly.

Ireland team: Keenan, Conway, Ringrose, Aki, Lowe, Sexton (captain), Gibson-Park; Healy, Sheehan, Furlong, Beirne, Ryan, O'Mahony, Van der Flier, Doris.

Replacements: Herring, Kilcoyne, Bealham, Henderson, Conan, Murray, Carbery, Henshaw.

Mark Wood felt England's bowlers tried a little too hard as they struggled to break down West Indies on day two of the first Test in Antigua.

England lost their final four wickets in relatively short order, though Jonny Bairstow reached 140 to take them past 300 for the first time since August 2021, and were then put on the backfoot by the hosts.

Kraigg Brathwaite (55) and John Campbell (35) put on 83 for the first wicket before England fought back to reduce the Windies to 127-4.

But, on a day truncated by rain, Jason Holder (43 not out) and Nkrumah Bonner (34 not out) reached stumps having put on an unbroken stand of 75 to push the Windies to 202-4, a deficit of 109 runs.

Bemoaning England's inability to make earlier inroads, Wood told Sky Sports News: "I don't think it's about being patient.

"We set higher standards than just being patient - we're out here to win and to play for England. If we're expecting in five or six Test matches' time that will be the answer, it won't.

"As can happen with any bowler, we just didn't get it right at the start and maybe we tried a bit too hard.

"With the void of [Jimmy] Anderson and [Stuart] Broad, maybe we wanted to try a bit hard and prove we can do it as a group.

"Maybe that was it, but I just don't think we started well and the way we came back I think showed good character as a group.

"We fielded well, we had good intensity there, so there were bits of play where I think we did really well.

"It's obviously going to be talked about, Anderson and Broad, because they are legends, but we just have to admit we didn't get it right to start with and we'll be out to get it right next time."

West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite and former skipper Jason Holder put them in a strong position to claim a first-innings lead in the first Test with England.

After finally dislodging the determined Jonny Bairstow and bowling England out for 311 on day two, the Windies risked wasting a strong start to their first innings.

Brathwaite (55) and John Campbell (35) put on 83 for the first wicket but the Windies subsequently slumped to 127-4 as England made belated inroads.

Yet the tourists' attack was frustrated by Holder and Nkrumah Bonner, who reached stumps after a final session truncated by rain having put on an unbroken stand of 75 to push the Windies to 202-4, a deficit of 109 runs.

England added 43 runs to their overnight score, their feat of surpassing 300 one that has all been too rarely achieved by Joe Root's team in recent times.

Frequently frustrated as England's day-one resistance stiffened, fast bowler Jayden Seales ended Bairstow's partnership with Chris Woakes (28) at 71, and it was he and Alzarri Joseph who polished off the tail, the latter dismissing Bairstow for 140 to bring the innings to a close.

Brathwaite quickly set about laying the foundation for a strong Windies reply, his 50 coming off just 62 balls before he chased a wide one from Mark Wood and was caught at gully by Craig Overton, who earlier had Campbell caught behind.

Shamarh Brooks (18) and Jermaine Blackwood (11) each went cheaply, however, Bonner and the ex-captain left England searching for answers when stumps were forced to be called by the inclement weather, the defiant all-rounder Holder seven runs shy of a 12th Test half-century.

England back in 300 club

Thanks to Bairstow's outstanding performance, England got to 300 for the first time since their win over India at Headingley in August last year. It is a drought Root and Co. will be eager to put behind them by producing more assured performances with the bat in 2022.

Holder in ominous form

Two of Holder's three Test centuries have come against England. His ability to convert a start in this contest into another hundred may play a large role in deciding who prevails in Antigua.

A cracking half-century from Shemaine Campbelle and a decisive late-match spell from experienced spinner Anisa Mohammed propelled the West Indies Women to a narrow 7-run win over England and a second straight win at the ICC Women’s World Cup.

In a game that featured several swings in momentum, England seemed on course for victory after Sophie Ecclestone and Kate Cross combined to put on 61 for the ninth wicket.

In the last three overs, England needed just nine runs for victory and still had two wickets in hand.  In the 48th over Eccelstone went after Mohammed who missed a return catch but inadvertently run out Cross at the non-striker's end.  The experienced Anya Shrubsole was then bowled by the spinner to leave England all out on 218 and set off jubilant celebrations.

In their turn at the crease, the West Indies were off to an excellent start and seemed set for a big target with openers Hayley Matthews (45) and Deandra Dottin (31) putting 81 on the board, with 58 of those runs coming during the opening powerplay.

England spinner Ecclestone, however, was introduced into the attack with great effect and turned the match on its head during an eventful 21st over as the West Indies lost three wickets in five deliveries.

Matthews was the first to go after edging Ecclestone to Anya Shrubsole and Dottin was run out three balls later, courtesy of some excellent fielding from the experienced Danni Wyatt.

The West Indies then lost skipper Stafanie Taylor first ball as Ecclestone gave England the ascendancy, but Campbelle and Chedean Nation (49*) launched a furious fightback with an impressive 123-run stand for the fifth wicket.  

Campbelle eventually fell to Nat Sciver in the penultimate over, but the West Indies had recovered sufficiently from a mid-innings collapse eventually ending with a score of 225 for 6.  Ecclestone ended with figures of 3 for 20.

The win moved the Caribbean team up to second in the table, while England will have plenty of work to do if they are to repeat their 2017 heroics.

 

Jonny Bairstow scored a fine century to lift England on day one of the first Test with West Indies.

Having won the toss and elected to bat in Antigua, it looked like being an all too familiar tale for a frequently fragile England line-up.

The tourists' top order collapsed to leave England 48-4 inside 16 overs, however, Bairstow (109 not out) led the rebuilding effort to ensure they got valuable first-innings runs on the board.

It was his eighth century in the longest format and first against the Windies, his success in surviving the first 10 overs with the second new ball meaning England are well placed to put themselves in an even more favourable position on day two after reaching 268-6 at stumps.

Such a scenario appeared unlikely when Kemar Roach quickly removed debutant Alex Lees (4) and opening partner Zak Crawley (8) was caught behind off Jayden Seales.

England looked in dire straits after Joe Root (13) was caught in two minds and bowled by Roach, with Dan Lawrence failing to build on a start as he went for 20 caught at second slip off Jason Holder.

The foundation for England's response was laid by Bairstow and Ben Stokes (36), who put on 67 before the latter thick-edged Seales on to leg stump, with Ben Foakes then adding 42 in his first Test since last year's tour of India in a sixth-wicket stand of 99.

Foakes was pinned lbw to break that partnership but the wicket of Bairstow, who deviated superbly between attack and defence in facing 216 balls, consistently punishing wide deliveries, proved elusive.

There were shades of the SCG in January as he wildly celebrated a richly deserved century and, with Bairstow and Chris Woakes (24 not out) bringing up a 50 partnership in the final over, England's hopes of gaining a better result than the draw they claimed in Sydney will be increasing.

Bairstow is England's glue once again

Having missed England's fifth Test with Australia in Hobart, Bairstow made it back-to-back hundreds in the longest format by following up his Sydney effort with another shining performance.

Sustained partnerships have been tough to come by for England in recent times, but when they have put them together, Bairstow has often been involved. Indeed, five of the last seven 50 partnerships for England have included Bairstow.

Windies face brick wall

The Windies would have hoped to make inroads with the second new ball in the final overs of the day. They failed to do so. The last 10 overs saw England add 33 runs without loss, and there will surely be concern among the hosts over how they let a seemingly dominant position slip.

West Indies fast bowler, Chinelle Henry, insists the team is determined to take things one game at a time after a dizzying start to the ICC Women's World Cup, which saw them net a thrilling win over hosts New Zealand.

On the back of a fine century from opener Hayley Matthews and crunch-death bowling from all-rounder Deandra Dottin, the team snatched a narrow 3-run win over the Kiwis in their first match. 

The Windies return to action Tuesday, at 5:00 pm, for the first time since that game, and Henry insists they will head into the contest grounded and focused on the task at hand.  England will be looking to get on the board after losing their first encounter against Australia.

“For us, it really is game by game. That first game against New Zealand - Yes, we had discussions with the coaching staff. We had discussions with everybody - but as a team, you know going out there we just had the discussions among ourselves that doesn't matter what happened,” Henry said on Monday.

“We just have - once everybody takes up the responsibility that I am going to do it for the team, then collectively we will just - we all will do it for the team. And I think that's the mentality we have brought into this team going into this World Cup - that if every single player put up their hand and be like, okay, today's my day, then when all 11 players come together collectively, we will and can beat anything.”

Tuesday marks the start of the three-Test Apex series between the West Indies and England. The visitors have not won a Test series in the Caribbean since their3-0 triumph in 2004, the same series in which Brian Lara scored a world record 400 not out in the fourth Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground.

In 2019, when the teams last met in the Caribbean, the hosts secured a 2-1 series win and West Indies head coach Phil Simmons wants his team to keep the trend alive.

“We’re looking to play the cricket that we know will put us in a position to win the series. We’re trying to make sure we’re ready for everything England can throw at us,” the Trinidadian head coach said during a pre-match press conference on Monday while indicating that it will critical for the hosts to build strong opening partnerships when they bat.

In that series, Captain Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell shared opening stands of 53, 52, 70, 17 not out, 57 and five and they will once again be entrusted with the responsibility.

“The last time we beat England here, the opening pair was Kraigg and John Campbell. Let’s hope that’s a good omen for us because they gave the team some good starts. We’ve been talking about getting a good start and making sure that the top four put things together and not leave it for the middle and lower order,” Simmons said.

“That’s been the focus of our camp leading up to this series. We need batsmen to bat long so the bowlers can have something to work with and I think the camp went well so I expect good things from them.”

The absence of James Anderson and Stuart Broad from the England team has been a big talking point ever since their squad was announced, but Simmons says he is more interested in who they do have.

“We keep harping on no Broad and Anderson but when you don’t have the experience, you have young players who are hungry to make their name and that is something that you have to guard against too. They have quality bowlers who we still have to bat well against,” he said.

Simmons also spoke about the importance of having one specialist spinner in their squad, Veerasammy Permaul.

“Your spinner, at least in the first couple of days, will always play that holding role. Permaul has been bowling really well so, hopefully, by the time we get to the fourth day he will come into play and possibly be a match-winner for us,” Simmons said.

Simmons also mentioned the conditions he expects at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.

“It looks like it’s going to be a good wicket. We’re going to have to work hard for our runs but also work hard for our wickets,” he said.

At the conclusion of the Test match, the teams move on to the Kensington Oval in Barbados for the second Test set to start on March 16. The final Test is scheduled to be played at the National Cricket Stadium in Grenada beginning on March 24.

 

 

 

 

Cricket icons Sir Vivian Richards and Lord Ian Botham unveiled the new Richards-Botham trophy which will be won by the victors in Test Series between West Indies and England Men’s Team.

The trophy pays tribute to two all-time greats – whose rivalry and friendship embodies the close relationship and mutual respect between the two sides. The unveiling ceremony was held on Sunday at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua ahead of the first Apex Test match which starts on Tuesday, March 8.

The sparkling new trophy symbolizes “Courage. Friendship. Respect” – values that represent the Test cricketing rivalry between West Indies and England, and of two legends who best define them – Sir Vivian Richards and Lord Ian Botham.

It has an ultra-modern design and consists of an upside-down cup, based on a Georgian rummer, with the joining sphere a cricket ball. One end is a rummer for drinking rum and the other a wine/ale goblet. The rummer has palm fronds and the ale cup has willow leaves. The ceremonial idea is that the winning team holding the trophy would have the rummer that represents their team face upward while they held it and it would be ceremoniously turned over when the other team wins.

Test matches between these two rivals date back to 1928 when West Indies made their first trip to England. The teams, under the captaincy of Kraigg Brathwaite and Joe Root, will renew the rivalry with the Apex Test Series.

“It’s a truly special feeling to have the fantastic trophy named in honour of my great friend Ian and myself. We played a lot together and built a great friendship on and off the cricket field,” said Sir Vivian. “As I said earlier, I am truly delighted to know that the game that I have shown my love for all my life is naming such a prestigious award in recognition of what I managed to achieve. It’s a beautiful trophy and I want to again thank everyone who came up with this idea and contributed to its creation."

Botham said he was honoured to have a trophy in his name.

“It’s a great idea and a truly lovely trophy. It really stands out and I’m honoured to have my name on the trophy alongside my friend Sir Viv,” he said.

“The captain who picks up the trophy at the end of the upcoming series will be a happy man.”

Meanwhile, West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite said he was eager to get going on Tuesday in what he expects to be a closely contested series.

“We’re really excited and ready for the upcoming Apex Test Series against England. This is going to be an amazing three weeks of cricket,” Brathwaite said.

“It’s extra special too that we’re playing for the new Richards-Botham trophy, a fitting tribute to these two great men. We want to be the first team to get our hands on it and celebrate with our fans.”

England’s captain Joe Root believes the trophy named in honour of the two greats is a fitting tribute to the rivalry between the two teams.

“Test series between England and West Indies are iconic, and to have a trophy named after arguably the two most outstanding England and West Indies cricketers of all-time in Lord Ian Botham and Sir Vivian Richards is a fitting tribute for this great rivalry. We are enthused about the next month of competition, and we hope to make the England fans proud by lifting the Richards-Botham trophy,” he said.

The Apex Test Series will feature three Test matches. The first at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, the second Apex Test will be played at Kensington Oval, Barbados from March 16-20, with the climax in the third Apex Test at the Grenada National Stadium, Grenada on March 24-28

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